On Friday, the Mystics made a couple moves. One that we know is official, and one that we’ll have to wait a few days on.
First, they re-signed Tierra Ruffin-Pratt last Friday. Ruffin-Pratt was an undrafted rookie in 2013, but ultimately emerged as the Mystics’ starting small forward in each of the last two seasons after the departure of Monique Currie. In 2016, she averaged 7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 2.6 rpg. Here’s what GM and Head Coach Mike Thibault had to say about the signing:
Tierra is one of the best success stories in the league since I have been in D.C. Undrafted, she came to camp in 2013 and just decided to kick butt, take names and win herself a spot on this team. With the ability to play multiple positions, she has become a big part of what we do. She has made herself into one of the elite defenders in the league, able to defend our opponent's best perimeter scorer on a nightly basis. Her ability to handle the ball has given us more flexibility on offense as well. Her commitment to investing herself in her home town speaks volumes for her as a person. Again, she is part of our core group that will lead this team towards our successful seasons ahead.
I agree with everything Thibault said. It’s very rare to see undrafted rookies make a WNBA team and stay there for multiple seasons. Her presence and consistency on the Mystics is a visible indication for any WNBA or NBA player that draft position is just the very beginning on how one can shape his or her career.
On the Wizards, players like Sheldon McClellan, Daniel Ochefu, and Danuel House should follow Ruffin-Pratt’s example. I know we’ve given some of them some slack earlier this season, but they shouldn’t left their “undrafted” status deter them from making an impact, whether now or in the future.
Anyway, Ruffin-Pratt has been a very effective defender against many other WNBA teams’ superstars, in particular Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx. In 2015 especially, Ruffin-Pratt was assigned to defend Moore during Lynx games and completely threw her off her rhythm.
Where do I see Ruffin-Pratt over the next few years? As of this moment, I see her as a defensive specialist and as a backup to their new franchise player, Elena Delle Donne. That said, Ruffin-Pratt isn’t going to be a backup who’s on the end of the bench. You can still expect to see her play 20-25 minutes a game. If she can improve her offensive consistency, she may see some consistent time in the closing minutes of games.
Krystal Thomas signs offer sheet with Mystics
Mike Thibault wasn’t finished though. He also got restricted free agent center Krystal Thomas to sign an offer sheet last Friday.
Thomas played for the Seattle Storm in two stints (2011 and 2016), the Phoenix Mercury (2011-2013), and the Indiana Fever (2014) in her WNBA career. Last season, she averaged 1.4 ppg and and 2.3 rpg in 19 games played for Seattle.
The Storm has until Tuesday, February 7 to match the offer. If they choose not to do so, then Thomas will be on the Mystics roster. Given that she hasn’t been a particularly productive player for Seattle last year, I think they’ll let her move on to D.C.
If Thomas does come to Washington, she will have have a decent chance to play significant minutes because Stefanie Dolson was traded to the Chicago Sky in the Delle Donne Deal, and Kia Vaughn was traded to the New York Liberty in another deal. Washington’s weakest position at the moment is center, and someone has to fill those minutes.
No starting lineup — even on a championship team — is made up of five players who average 20 points a game. So, someone has to take a backseat there. With Delle Donne, Meesseman, and presumably Tayler Hill on the starting lineup, you know they’re all going to carry the offense. Someone has to be fine being a “clean up bucket” player who isn’t involved much in the offense. Thomas’ career usage rate is 12.1 percent, yet she grabs nearly 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per 36 minutes played in her career. In a vacuum, those numbers indicate that Thomas could be a good clean up post player in D.C.
There are still more moves to be made, but the Mystics are off to a fast start in WNBA free agency. We’ll see what the Storm does with Thomas, but in the meantime, welcome back TRP!