The Mystics announced that they signed Tianna Hawkins back to the team. Hawkins was the 6th pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft where she went to the Seattle Storm. She was traded to Washington in 2014 along with Bria Hartley, the 7th pick in the WNBA Draft in exchange for Crystal Langhorne.
Though Hawkins was on contract with the Mystics from 2014-16, she missed the 2015 season because she gave birth to her first child. Then in 2016, she was cut before the post-Olympic break after suffering a concussion. She averaged 4.7 points per game in 2016.
Though Hawkins was cut, GM and Head Coach Mike Thibault noted in a post-game interview that her contract was guaranteed through the end of the season. Thibault also noted that he liked Hawkins a lot and wanted to re-sign her when he could, so her return shouldn’t be a surprise.
Where will Hawkins make an impact?
Low post presence - The Mystics may have Elena Delle Donne on the roster, but it cost them both of Stefanie Dolson and Kia Vaughn, their centers last year. Delle Donne may be 6’5, but she would be most effective at small forward because of her perimeter shooting capability.
Their only other safe post options would be Emma Meesseman and LaToya Sanders, both of whom are also finesse. Krystal Thomas signed a free agent deal with the Mystics in the offseason, but it’s far from certain that she’s a long term solution. Hawkins is already familiar with the Thibault way and has the size to match up against other posts so Delle Donne and Meesseman won’t get bullied all the time.
The Mystics’ Achilles’ heel is post depth, and in particular players who can withstand the physicality that many other WNBA posts bring to their play. The Mystics will play finesse, and perhaps high-paced basketball predicated around a lot of shooting. But many other WNBA teams prefer more physical post play. Hawkins isn’t a physical post like Vaughn is. But to be fair, not many are. But Hawkins isn’t as finesse as Meesseman and Delle Donne are either.
Three Point Shooting - The 2016 Mystics were an outmatched team due to a number of reasons that include a lack of enough star talent and injuries. But they made the second most three pointers in the league. Hawkins shot 50 percent (11 of 22) threes last year in 24 games played. She’s not the sharpshooter that Delle Donne and Meesseman are. But if Hawkins is open and beyond the arc, she’s going to make that shot.
Rebounding - Hawkins averaged 8.4 rebounds per 36 minutes played in the 2016 season, including 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. The Mystics averaged 8.2 offensive rebounds a game last season, but gave up 9.7 per game.
That doesn’t sound like much, but the Mystics shot 42.3 percent from the field last season while they allowed opponents to shoot 44.3 percent. That’s a margin of just two percentage points, but shooting percentages are influenced by rebounding, especially offensive rebounding.
The Mystics can use a solid rebounder who knows The Thibault Way already. With Dolson and Vaughn on other teams now, that raises Hawkins’ value.
Overall, I’m pleased that they’re bringing back another key player from the last several years. The Mystics need post depth, and Hawkins is someone who Washington can count on for THAT rebound or to take THAT hit Emma or Elena may otherwise get. And finally, she’ll make THAT three when her number’s called. Welcome back, Tianna.