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The Wizards are emulating the Mystics’ key ingredient for their success: adopting a mature, hardworking mindset

The Wizards have openly admired and looked up to the Mystics’ championship run. They’re already on track with the most important part: building the mature and winning mindset.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Five
Some fans may not consider the Mystics’ rise to be worth anything to the Wizards. You’d be mistaken.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m still gathering my thoughts together on the Washington Mystics’ WNBA championship and trying to recharge my batteries before the Wizards’ regular season starts this Wednesday. So over the weekend I was thinking about the ways the Wizards can emulate their sister team.

Ultimately, there’s one thing where the Wizards are following the Mystics very well on. It’s probably the most important key to winning a title at some point: Creating a mature, hardworking mindset.

The Mystics may not have been championship contenders for most of General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault’s early years in Washington. But they stuck to playing a game of positionless basketball and a group of players who were eager to learn each year.

Though Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver were brought in by trade and free agency, respectively in 2017, we have to look at some other players who were on the team before the arrival.

In 2013, the Mystics drafted Emma Meesseman. She was already the living embodiment of the style of basketball that would help them win the WNBA championship just over a week ago. Washington also drafted Natasha Cloud in 2015, who has grown from a fledgling rotation guard to an All-WNBA Defensive Second Team member this season.

And we also have to look at some of the former Mystics who played between 2013-16. The veterans then may not have led Washington a Finals or championship, but they still laid the mindset the current team has today.

Kara Lawson was a veteran mentor to them and played for Thibault with the Connecticut Sun from 2009-12. Ivory Latta was a two-time All-Star in Washington and brought a positive mindset to the team from day one. Kia Vaughn was the veteran center Washington needed before LaToya Sanders was available to play in the league full-time again.

Their draft picks, especially in 2014 have matured, even after they were traded to other teams. Bria Hartley was always a positive influence on the Mystics as a starter or sixth woman, continues to do the same for the New York Liberty. Hartley also won a silver medal with the France women’s national basketball team in Women’s EuroBasket this year.

Stefanie Dolson became a WNBA All-Star in Washington in 2015. But after getting traded to the Chicago Sky for Delle Donne in 2017, she earned her second All-Star nod that same year and was a major part of Chicago’s playoff run this year.

The Wizards are just in the beginning stages of laying down their philosophy. But General Manager Tommy Sheppard’s moves last offseason do offer a lot of promise. He drafted Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield who come in as more mature draft prospects than some past prospects Ernie Grunfeld would in the past. The locker room is without “clowns” or immature players who could turn into them, even if they were more athletically talented.

Bradley Beal’s two-year, $72 million contract extension is also in line with that. Here’s what team owner Ted Leonsis had to say about the signing in a statement by the team:

Bradley embodies the type of high-character, team-first player that we want to have representing our fans and our city and we’re very happy to sign him to this extension. This caps off a tremendously productive offseason by our new leadership structure of smartly and efficiently moving the franchise forward in a positive direction.

I admit that I am in the camp of Wizards fans who believe that the team should listen to other teams’ offers for Beal, I certainly understand why the team wanted to keep him. Though John Wall certainly fills in the void as a major voice if Beal were to leave, Wall also isn’t able to play right away due to his Achilles injury. Beal is healthy and set the type of environment the Wizards want to have right now on the court. That just won’t be replaced and wouldn’t send an ideal message if he were traded.

The Wizards’ exact personnel needs aren’t going to be the same as the Mystics due to the differences in pay between NBA and WNBA players. But they are certainly off to the right start by committing to a philosophy around mature players who want to be part of a winning organization of the long haul.