CSN's Ben Standig was kind enough to remind me that people in the States generally regard European basketball leagues as 'sub-par', to put it nicely. So how are the Mystics faring overseas? And is it really so easy?
First, let me show you how the Mystics players with more than seven games under their belt in FIBA play stack up. That includes five players, and I have added Diana Taurasi as a benchmark, as well as, sorting the list by the number of WNBA players that are on their respective teams. Here is the short answer, below.
What pops out immediately to me, is that the players with the highest percentage points increase (which I have highlighted) Latta, Vaughn, and Sanders, also had their minutes increased the most.
On the other hand, Meesseman and Taurasi have seen their minutes increased the least, and their point increase is up a mere 25%. Wouldn't you expect Meesseman and Taurasi's numbers to be a lot higher than that considering the competition is so 'poor'?
The fact of the matter is that many European teams dedicated themselves to youth development, roughly 10 years ago. They are reaping the fruits of their own farm systems in 2015-16.
Quick case in point, is Meesseman's teammate, Maria Vadeeva. She is 18 years old, 6'4" and is the highest scorer on the Sparta&K team. Meesseman is second. [If anyone is interested in more assessment please look here.] Her team also has the youngest average age, at 20, and went 7-1 in FIBA play, advancing to the quarterfinals of the EuroCup Women's Championship. Edirne did not make it out of Round 1, with more W players and an average age of 27.
And for the sake of clarity, let me point out that the two different leagues have different championship formats. Meesseman, Latta and Dolson play in the EuroCup Women, illustrated on the left, and Sanders, Vaughn and Taurasi play in the EuroLeague Women, on the right.
Simply put, they are on different sides of the draw until the Quarterfinal of the SuperCup Championship. Once the top 4 teams in each league are determined, they meet each other to play for a Semi-Final berth.
As it stands, the Championship can be played by two teams from the same league, for example, last year when K. Vaughn's USK Praha team defeated Taurasi and C. Parker's UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Final. (Which makes perfect sense, considering the Spurs and Warriors could be the two best teams in the NBA.)
Needless to say, there are dozens more teams to play for overseas than the 12 teams that make up the WNBA, stretching the talent further, obviously. I believe there are individual games where the competition is lower, but winning a EuroLeague SuperCup Championship requires even the very top players to shape their careers around it.
Diana Taurasi took the 2015 WNBA season off to win a Championship for UMMC Ekaterinburg this year. Sure, the money didn't hurt, but it is important enough to her to save her very best for her Russian squad because she has to. The proof is in last year's pudding.