On Tuesday, Ted Leonsis spoke with the media at Verizon Center before a 20-minute "analytic scrimmage" between the Washington Mystics and Minnesota Lynx, which the Mystics won, 48-41. You can watch his entire Q&A above from Monumental Network, or click here.
Leonsis talked about three topics on Tuesday, which include the D-League, practice facility progress, and the Mystics in general. Most of these topics were discussed in the video, but some of it was also discussed elsewhere.
Getting a D-League team is a high priority
Early on in Leonsis' conference, he mentioned that he wanted a D-League team "in the community." Given that most NBA teams now have a D-League affiliate, the Wizards are now behind the curve when it comes to having their own affiliate, so I think he's stating the obvious. But either way, it's a good thing that this is high on his to-do list to improve the team, but ...
...the Wizards will not aggressively pursue a D-League team until they finalize a practice facility location
Though a D-League team is a need, it is not as high as their need to build an off-site practice facility.
The practice facility is his first priority. Then a D-League team, which would play in the facility.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) May 26, 2015
According to Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, Leonsis hopes to finalize a location for the practice facility by the end of the offseason, which would be around September. It is expected that the facility will take 18 to 24 months to build. Currently, no offer has been made toward any site.
Once finished, a new practice facility will be used by both the Wizards and Mystics and could also be the home of a D-League team once that time comes around.
TL;dr version: don't expect to see a Wizards' one-to-one D-League affiliate for at least another couple years, or until the practice facility is finalized.
Leonsis gives his 2015 Mystics season preview
Ultimately, the Wizards were a secondary issue with this press conference, which was dedicated for the Mystics and analytics in the WNBA.
After being asked a question about how far away the Mystics were from being a championship-caliber team like the Lynx -- who won the 2011 and 2013 WNBA titles, and have players like 2014 MVP Maya Moore, and 2012 Olympians Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen -- Leonsis replied that the Mystics' star is "the system and [General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault]," since they don't have that player right now. However, he added that they could still have a strong season.
Leonsis acknowledged that missing out on the top three picks of the 2013 WNBA Draft -- and drafting Tayler Hill that season who hasn't met expectations though he didn't mention her by name -- set the team back. That said, he believes that the Mystics can still be a very strong team as their young core improves, especially on the defensive end, where Washington finished third in defensive rating last year.
I've been open about the fact that I am not very optimistic about the Mystics' long-term future, because this team appears to be arguably the only WNBA team without a top-level player who will get casual fans to attend games -- something that Leonsis specifically wants people to do. Yes, I like their young players and have high expectations for them, but I'm not going to call them franchise superstars.
But perhaps Leonsis and/or Thibault also believe that the Mystics could play like the Atlanta Hawks did this season where they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. As I wrote on Swish Appeal, and our preview of the team, the Mystics share some common elements with the Hawks. On top of all that, the WNBA's Eastern Conference looks iffy enough for Washington to get a high seed in the playoffs if they can hit the ground running this season.