After training camp over the last couple of weeks, the Mystics finally have their opening day roster. Here it is:
|6||Zoi Dimitrakou||F||6'2||29||R||Thessaloniki, Greece|
|4||Tayler Hill||G||5'9||145||26||3||Ohio State|
|12||Ivory Latta||G||5'6||138||32||9||North Carolina|
|33||Emma Meesseman||F||6'4||182||23||3||Ieper, West Flanders, Belgium|
|14||Tierra Ruffin-Pratt||G/F||5'10||183||25||3||North Carolina|
Some interesting tidbits on the roster:
- Youth still reigns supreme in D.C.: The average age of the roster is 25, including LaToya Sanders, who has not reported to camp mainly because of the Olympics. Once Sanders is back, the roster would be whittled down to 12. 10 of 13 players are on rookie-scale deals this season, including the 29-year old Dimitrakou. The 2015-16 Wizards, on the other hand, were a veteran-laden team where only four of 15 players were on rookie scale contracts.
- Two European players are on the roster - You know Meesseman's from Belgium, so I'll leave it there. But Dimitrakou is the second. She played for Abdullah Gul University in Turkey's KBSL last season alongside Sanders and was second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg). GM and Head Coach Mike Thibault has a keen eye for international talent, and he's quick to tell you that you shouldn't simply view basketball from an American lens.
- This is a homegrown Washington squad - Five players on this roster were Mystics first round draft picks including Bria Hartley, who technically is a Storm pick but she never played for them. Every Mystics first round draft pick from 2013 on is on the team. Two Mystics second round picks from any year: Meesseman (2013) and Natasha Cloud (2015) are also on the team. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt made the team in 2013 as an undrafted rookie and never looked back. And Dimitrakou is starting her WNBA career as a Mystic. Ten of 12 active players are Mystics players who never played for ANYONE ELSE IN THE WNBA. This team is built through the draft, practically from top to bottom. And multiple undrafted players are still original homegrown acquisitions. For some perspective, the 2015-16 Wizards only had four players: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Kelly Oubre as homegrown draft picks. Three of them were top-three selections and were high lottery picks. The rest of the roster was acquired through trade or free agency on short term deals. The Mystics haven't made many short term fixes because Thibault knew that rebuilding this team would take multiple seasons.
- Mike Thibault is the anti-Ernie Grunfeld - As Wizards fans, we often complain about Ernie Grunfeld not being able to identify or otherwise get drafted players to develop and become meaningful contributions outside of their three top-three picks. If you want to see a team that knows how to develop young players, the Mystics are a prime example of being THAT team. Yes, I wish they would have had a sure fire franchise player already, and yes, their record could have been better than .500 over three seasons. But again, TEN of the 12 players on this roster are purely homegrown and never wore another team's uniform.
So here's the bottom line with the 2016 Mystics roster and their front office. They are running their team the way many Wizards fans want their team to be run like. They have a GM who knows how to select solid contributors through the draft. They have a head coach (who is also the GM) who gives young players a chance to play meaningful players, and those players genuinely buy into the system and develop into a strong core unit.
I'm not saying that the Mystics are doing everything right and the Wizards are doing everything wrong. However, despite the fact that both teams are owned by Ted Leonsis and are following the Ten Point Plan, both teams have taken very different approaches over the past several years given the context of the leagues they play in.