On Friday, Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne announced her intention or willingness to leave the Chicago Sky as she enters restricted free agency. In addition, Delle Donne was willing to sit out the entire 2017 season in order to force a trade to a specific team she wishes to play for. Multiple sources in and around the WNBA have reported that that team is the Mystics.
It is true that the Mystics don’t have as much star talent as most teams in the league. But there are still many reasons why she would find Washington attractive.
- Washington is less than a two-hour drive from Delaware, where Delle Donne is from. She played college basketball at the University of Delaware and spends time there during the NBA season. Also, Washington is a good place to live. So is Chicago, but it’s not close to home.
- The Mystics have a strong young core already. A hypothetical Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman frontcourt duo will be very scary. She was also quite complimentary of Mystics GM and Head Coach Mike Thibault in a podcast last Friday with Howard Megdal of Vice Sports.
- The Mystics consider Meesseman untradeable. So if the Sky deal Delle Donne to Washington, the Mystics aren’t letting go of their best player in the process. So again, a Meesseman and Delle Donne duo will happen IF Delle Donne comes to Washington.
- Delle Donne is an established superstar. With her in Washington, she could draw other top-level free agents to round a starting lineup. WNBA free agency is never as star studded as its NBA counterpart, so expect the Mystics to attract solid rotation and starter-level talent as a result of acquiring Delle Donne.
I get that nothing official happened yet. So let’s hold our breaths for just a bit. Still, this is exciting news for the Mystics, if it really comes true.
So let’s run with the idea that Delle Donne plays in Washington, and that Meesseman also remains. There are going to be winners and losers in this, so let’s go through them.
Who stands to gain the most from Delle Donne in a Mystics uniform?
- Mystics fans - This fanbase is more beleaguered than the Wizards fanbase. That sounds hard to believe, but stay with me here. The Mystics are the only current WNBA team with no WNBA Finals appearances in its franchise history. The Wizards certainly have that going for them at least.
- Monumental Sports ticket sales - The Mystics’ attendance has declined quite a bit in the 2010’s, starting with the Trudi Lacey coaching regime. It hasn’t slowed in Thibault’s era because they didn’t acquire one of the top three picks in the 2013 Draft. Delle Donne was one of them. And now, she’s going to the franchise that is closest to her house.
- Mike Thibault - The Mystics GM and Head Coach’s “rebuilding with youth but no superstar” plan is vindicated. He’s coming out ahead in any deal for Delle Donne during her restricted free agency. And he still gets to keep Meesseman, the runaway steal of the same draft class Delle Donne is in. You can even argue that Meesseman is one of the three best from that class already if you want.
- Emma Meesseman short term - Though she doesn’t have the awards to show for it, Meesseman is one of the WNBA’s best players. For the time being, she’s best used as a glue player who sneaks up on the opposition. That’s how she is playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia where she defers willingly to Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and even Spanish national Alba Torrens. When defenses focus a bit too much on those three, Meesseman then sneaks in 20 plus. Last season, Meesseman had her best numbers, but there were still some things I wasn’t pleased about, especially with her mentality of not shooting enough or telling Tayler Hill to stop bricking shots left and right once in awhile. EDD ain’t letting that happen. Also, Meesseman gets to stay in her comfort zone as a sidekick as opposed to getting scrutinized as a number one option. It also gives her the peace of mind that playing for Belgium won’t hurt the Mystics because “it’s really EDD’s team now.”
- The WNBA news machine - This is the biggest piece of WNBA news for the next couple months and it doesn’t involve franchise or league stability. That’s a win.
Who stands to lose the most?
- The Chicago Sky and its fans - The Sky have now lost their last two Olympian stars in Fowles AND Delle Donne within a span of three years. Yikes.
- Amber Stocks - the new Chicago Sky GM and head coach doesn’t even get a shot to continue building around Delle Donne.
- Emma Meesseman long term - The Mystics will be a better team with Delle Donne, but Meesseman has the skills to be ... even better than Delle Donne who is in her prime right now. Sure, she is about three and a half years younger than Delle Donne. But we also have to accept that Meesseman will never be a number one franchise option in D.C. once you get an American star like EDD. She won’t miss games due to overseas commitments. Meesseman will.
- Stefanie Dolson - Any Mystics trade involving Delle Donne will have to include some decent Mystics players. If Meesseman isn’t the one sent to the Windy City, then Dolson is one possibility. In her case, she may end up going from a playoff caliber team to a rebuilding team if she is traded. If she is still in Washington next year, Dolson may very well have a smaller role, especially if Delle Done plays power forward and Meesseman plays center.
- TV viewing audiences - The Mystics won’t be on broadcast television next year. Assuming the WNBA doesn’t make an adjustment to its ESPN and ESPN2 schedule, one superstar won’t have many eyeballs in her direction because she’s in Monumental Red. That said, I find it hard to believe that ESPN keeps the same schedule if Delle Donne comes to Washington.
Right now, all of this seems like a blur. The Mystics haven’t been a free agent destination team for a number of reasons, so it’s hard to believe that this could be for real.
But for now, do you agree with this set of winners and losers? Let us know in the comments below.