The Mystics were just 13-21 in the 2016 season, and finished last in the Eastern Conference. If you look at it one way, the season was a disappointment because they missed the postseason for the first time since 2012.
However, the 2016 Mystics’ starting lineup featured a cast of players who were all on their rookie contracts. And the Mystics were the only WNBA team without any Top-3 draft picks from any year. In fact, every other team had at least two Top-3 picks from any year.
So in other words, the Mystics played with a major talent handicap all year long. Despite their talent handicap, the Mystics were competitive and still had good moments along the way. Let’s go through the Top 5 moments from the summer that was, in no particular order.
Hill was the fourth pick in the 2013 Draft after “those other three,” one of whom would have been a big psychological boost for them. In her first three years, Hill was a bench player, and also had her first child along the way.
There wasn’t much enthusiasm around Hill heading into this season, but she was the Mystics’ per-game leading scorer at 15.4 points per game and was a Most Improved Player candidate throughout the year. There certainly were questions on whether Hill was capable of being a foundational piece moving forward. But thankfully, she answered the bell this past summer.
In the 2016 WNBA GM survey, Meesseman was the leading pick as the league’s most underrated player. When you see a player who shoots above average from everywhere, leads the league in three point shooting efficiency, knows where to be at the right time — all the time, but STILL doesn’t get much love, that’s definitely underrated.
But for one week, the WNBA got to its senses and gave her a player of the week honor for games between June 6 and June 12 when she averaged 21 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games.
Though she improved and had some arguably better weeks — especially in early to mid July — Meesseman never won another PoW honor again and didn’t make an All-WNBA team. I call that Meessemanesque. The Wizards hope to be Meessemanesque this season too for that matter which is another post for another day.
LaToya Sanders was the second leading scorer in the Olympics
The Mystics haven’t had a player on Team USA since 2000 when Chamique Holdsclaw and Nikki McCray represented them in Sydney. But they did have one of the Olympics’ best players on their roster. Sanders represented Turkey and was the tournament’s second leading scorer at 22 points a game. Along the way, she led the Turks to the quarterfinals.
Sanders returned to D.C. after the Olympic break and saw her short return cut even shorter due to a foot injury. But she has now retired from national team play, so hopefully we’ll get to see more of her defensive tenacity without missing much time.
The Mystics got a big W against the 2015 WNBA champs at home. Emma Meesseman scored 16 points in the first quarter alone, like the video above shows.
It’s not just that they beat the Lynx by 24 points. The Lynx Olympic backcourt of Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus were scoreless, and Maya Moore wasn’t much better. Those three were flat-out stopped in what would be Washington’s signature win of the season.
In the 2012 WNBA season, the Mystics were the worst team in the regular season, but ended up with the fourth pick in the draft. In 2016, with slightly modified rules that played to Washington’s disadvantage, Washington still ended up with the second pick in next year’s draft despite having the lowest odds of winning the first.
Next year’s draft class isn’t expected to yield a Breanna Stewart, or a 2013 Big Three type player — so that means she won’t be the “franchise player.” But that player will play alongside a young core of Meesseman, Hill, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Stefanie Dolson, Natasha Cloud, Kahleah Copper, and Bria Hartley — all of whom fit in well with the “Thibault Way.” Washington will definitely be a great place for the second pick in the Draft to start her career.