The Washington Mystics are off to a 3-1 start in the 2020 WNBA season. It’s better than what many preseason projects said, and for good reason. Ariel Atkins is leading the team in scoring. Myisha Hines-Allen is having a breakout season of her own. And so is Aerial Powers.
But what about Emma Meesseman?
On the surface, Meesseman is having a setback season. In a unique season where Tina Charles is sitting out the season due to health reasons and when reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne is officially out due to rehabbing her back injury from last season (and has health concerns of her own), it made sense that this is now “Meesseman’s team.” We could see her average 20 points, grab 8 rebounds and dish 3 assists per game leading D.C. to win after win.
However, that isn’t the case. Meesseman is averaging just 11.3 points per game on an uncharacteristically low 44.7 percent shooting from the field. Meesseman has yet to make a three (and missed all three of her attempts this season). And her usage rate has remained relatively unchanged from last season (21.1 percent this season vs. 22 percent in 2019).
However, I don’t think Meesseman gives a damn about how many points she scores per game. Back in 2016, she gave an interview to De Standaard, a Belgian Dutch language newspaper where she viewed shot-gunning as an American concept, even though General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault pleaded to her to do just that.
So instead of taking a shot in traffic where she could get fouled and get two points at the free throw line, Meesseman often passed to an open teammate who would brick the shot. At least that’s how things were in the pre-EDD days.
This season, Meesseman is appearing a bit more like the player she was back then. On the surface, it appears that “Passive Emma” has made an unwelcome comeback. Given that her scoring is down from last season, that is concerning. I certainly am.
But there is one difference about Meesseman’s lack of scoring in 2020 vs. her early years, besides the fact that we are looking at just a four-game sample size for this season. The players around Meesseman today are much more efficient than they were back from 2013-16 when Washington was clearly rebuilding.
Ultimately, passing to the likes of Atkins, Powers, or Hines-Allen this season has helped Meesseman average a career-high (and a Mystics team-high) 5.3 assists per game this season. That number is also the fifth-highest in the WNBA and highest among all frontcourt players.
Meesseman’s passing has helped Washington have the second-best team offense (111.2 points per 100 possessions) this season. And unlike last season’s squad, this year’s Mystics team is also only giving up 97.4 points per 100 possessions per game, second in the WNBA.
I’m not sure if both of these rankings will hold up throughout the course of the 2020 season. But if they do, the Mystics will be in good shape for a potentially deep playoff run.
And as for Meesseman’s scoring? She will get out of her apparent slump before too long, especially once teams inevitably dare her to shoot!