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Keys to the Palace: Handing the Mystics keys after a hot finish in June

When your team’s winning, more people are earning keys, simple as that.

Stewart W. Small

It’s been a couple weeks since we had our last Keys to the Palace piece, with the NBA Draft, free agency, and a constant flow of Mystics games all in between.

Since the Mystics are on a Fourth of July break, now is a good time to hand out Keys to the Palace, Guest Palaces and lockouts if needed.

Over the last two weeks, the Mystics went 3-2 and are now 9-9. Considering that the Mystics were 2-7 not too long ago, this turnaround is impressive. The question now is whether they can keep this up as we head toward the Olympic break.

Reviewing what Keys, Passes, and Lockouts are

To review how these are handed out, here’s the relatively subjective criteria:

  • Key to the Palace: These are given to players who perform above expectations for a given week.
  • Guest Pass: This is given to players who meet expectations. Also, they’re given to players who have two great games and one bad game in a week.
  • Locked Out: Players who are locked out perform well below expectations during a given week.

We also use the context of a player’s role on a team when determining whether to give her a Key, Guest Pass, or to lock her out.

As you should know by now, Emma Meesseman is the best player on the Mystics, like John Wall is for the Wizards. Therefore, she must consistently perform at a higher level than another post like Tianna Hawkins in order to get a key. It’s fair, because the better you are, the higher the expectations must be.

So, two 12 point performances by Meesseman aren’t earning her a key, but it could for Hawkins unless there’s some other area where she was very poor. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the general point. Make sense?

Week of June 20-June 26

Games in consideration

Keys to Palace

Tayler Hill, 17 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 spg

Hill scored consistently all week, even if her efficiency didn’t show up in full effect until the win against the Lynx. People are quick to look at just her scoring numbers, but she was active stealing the ball as well and is quickly becoming a solid two-way player in the W.

Natasha Cloud, 11 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 spg

I was quite impressed with Cloud’s overall performance this week since she maintained her good point guard skills (2.7 apg vs. 1.0 TO/g) while shooting 10 of 19 in the three games last week. The Mystics may have lost the Phoenix game, but she drained five of seven threes in that contest. Good chance she could develop into a strong spot up three point shooter as her career develops. She was 6 of 9 in threes this week!

Jamie Weisner, 5 points in the Lynx win

I may be a bit too easy to please when the 12th man on a roster scores right away, and ultimately scores five points in a butt kicking of the defending champions:

But with 12th men on a roster, they’re not getting much playing time. Two to five minute spurts is all Weisner is going to get on this roster barring an injury to another guard. So, being able to make a contribution right away — even in two or three minute spurts — is a skill too.

Weisner is doing this as well as anyone, to the point where she is averaging .276 win shares per 48 minutes according to Basketball Reference — higher than Emma Meesseman, a/k/a the analyticophile’s dream basketball player.

To be fair, let’s be honest. Weisner is NOT better than Emma Meesseman. Remember, she only played in one game during the week. However, the stat also shows Weisman is making things happen in the time when she is on the floor. And that counts for something.

Guest Passes

Emma Meesseman, 14 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.3 spg

With a player like Meesseman, you can’t just look at how many points she scores and make a determination there. The Fever game is an example of just that as she scored 12 points, but stole the ball six times and dished three assists. Her performance against the Lynx was also impressive as she scored 20 points in 22 minutes.

However, her low rebounding numbers all week are still something we can’t ignore, so that’s a knock on her performance.

Stefanie Dolson, 7.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 bpg

Dolson shot less than 50 percent from the field in two of the three games this week, including a 1-of-5 shooting performance in the Lynx win. But she held her own rebounding-wise, and that’s pretty much all we can expect from her right now.

Tianna Hawkins, 5 ppg, 2 rpg

Hawkins’ three point game during the Lynx win seems like it was enough for her to earn a Key to the Palace when she scored 11 points and drained all three of her long range shots. But she shot a combined 2 of 7 in the other two games which keeps her out. Still, that was a nice performance.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, 4.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.3 spg

TRP is kind of like Meesseman in this respect. You can’t just look at how many points she is scoring in order to get a feel for what she is doing on the floor. This week, she performed quite well on both ends of the floor, minus a four turnover performance against the Fever where she also shot 1 of 4 from the field.

Kia Vaughn, 4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1 apg

Vaughn provided solid time on the second unit for Washington and shot 5 of 9 from the field.

Kahleah Copper, 6.5 ppg, 4 rpg

Copper sat out the Lynx win due to injury, but she did shoot 4 of 8 from the field in the two games she played in.

Locked Out

Bria Hartley, 4.7 ppg, 1.7 apg

Hartley had a good showing against the Lynx, but her Fever and Mercury performances were forgettable.

Ivory Latta, 6 ppg, 1.3 apg

Latta shot 4 of 17 from the field this week and 2 of 11 from three point range. When her shot is falling, Latta is a joy to watch. But when it’s not, she can be a liability more than an asset on the floor.

Ally Malott, 3 points in the win vs. the Lynx

Malott played 17 minutes in the Lynx game. She drained one three point shot on six attempts, while grabbing a rebound, dishing, an assist, and blocking a shot. Malott was brought on the Mystics to provide some perimeter scoring, but when she isn’t producing in limited minutes, there isn’t much reason for her to be on the floor unless every other post player is in foul trouble.

Week of June 27 to July 3

Games in consideration

Key to the Palace

Kia Vaughn, 12 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1 apg

Vaughn was a bit overdue for a scoring outburst, and we finally got see that in the Sky win on Friday. Her performance against the Stars was not as good and she should have grabbed more than one rebound, but I’m glad to see her pull through with a performance like Friday so that convinced me to hand her a key for the week.

Tianna Hawkins, 7.5 ppg, 3 rpg

So I didn’t give Hawkins a key for the first week. She deserves a key for the second week in consideration of the fact that she had more consistent playing time and also produced consistently during her time on the floor. She shot 60 percent from the field overall, and perhaps she should continue to get consistent time in the 12-17 minute range for the rest of the season.

Guest Passes

Emma Meesseman, 13 ppg, 2 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2 spg

My evaluation of Meesseman this last week is quite similar to that of the week before.

Again, you need to see her all around performance before you decide to give her a key, pass, or lock her out. Meesseman wasn’t scoring at a high rate ,but she still made an impact making plays for others, as you can see from her assist numbers.

Still, she’s a post player, and she came up empty on the rebounding end against the Sky on Friday. Therefore, she gets another guest pass, and Mike Thibault may be wondering if he can grab one rebound himself, like former Wizards head coach Randy Wittman speculated not too long ago.

Tayler Hill, 15 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2 rpg

Hill had a very strong performance against the Sky despite the loss. But she wasn’t particularly much of a factor against the Stars last Wednesday, even if the Mystics won this game comfortably.

Bria Hartley, 2 ppg, 2.5 apg

Hartley’s shot wasn’t falling, but she did dish five assists in 28 combined minutes, while committing no turnovers. That and consistent rebounding keeps her from being locked out.

Natasha Cloud, 7 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 rpg

I was going to give Cloud another key if she had another decent scoring performance against the Sky. But, it’s promising to see her continue to improve her shooting efficiency nevertheless. Cloud is shooting 38 percent from the field overall (which is nothing to write home about), but she is shooting 48.5 percent from three!

Stefanie Dolson, 6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1 apg, 1 bpg

Again, the scoring isn’t there for Dolson, and it may not really come this season to be honest. I’m just wondering if she’s hurt or something. That said, she continued to be consistent rebounding the basketball.

Ivory Latta, 9.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg

Latta broke out of an ugly two-game slump (the Mercury and Lynx games from last week) by responding with a 12 point performance where she shot 4 of 7 from the field. Her shooting went down a bit during the Sky loss, but she still contributed on the rebounding and assisting fronts.

Tierra Ruffin Pratt, 9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 apg

Like last week, TRP contributed in multiple areas on the floor, but a five turnover performance against the Sky is too hard to ignore when it comes to giving or giving a Key.

Jamie Weisner, 1 rebound, 1 assist in the Stars win

Weisner did not score in the two minutes she played, but still grabbed a rebound and dished an assist to Meesseman soon after. And this is a very nice assist by the way.

I won’t give her a key this week because ... look. We expect Weisner to make something happen now when she’s on the court.

It’s hard not to root for Weisner and other players who are like her in that regard. And seriously, the Mystics need to find a way to get her a little more playing time based on the little bit I’ve seen her do as a pro.

Locked Out

Ally Malott, 3 points in the win vs. the Stars

Malott played 15 minutes and also shot 1 of 6 from the field in the Stars win. Otherwise, you can repeat what I wrote last week because it was more or less de ja vu.

Too small sample size

Kahleah Copper played five minutes in the Sky loss after missing two straight games due to injury.