October 10th. 2019. Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. After a heartbreaking sweep against the Seattle Storm the year before, this was it, everything this team went through blood, sweat, and tears it dream became a reality after 21 years, Mike Thibault and Mystics won the championship. I remember breaking down in tears watching us lose to Seattle, and seeing Mike lift that trophy up was a moment I will ever cherish as a Mystics fan.
Fast Forward two years and a month, it's now November 11th, 2021.
A Pandemic, A "Wubble" and Two Seasons Later the Washington Mystics are at a crossroads.
In 2020, Washington was a Shey Peddy Game winning elimination shot away from making the second round of the playoffs. But after the 2021 season, they still have yet to see Elena Delle Donne play regularly. And while the Mystics acquired Tina Charles (who missed 2020 due to a health exemption), the Mystics still missed the playoffs.
Coach Thibault, I have some questions for you.
First, were you okay with this group coming into the season? Now granted, Alysha Clark sustained a foot injury causing her to miss this past season. But either way, the Mystics did not look like a playoff team whatsoever. I am sorry to make that statement but what I observed during the season this was not Mystics Basketball that I have known for the past few seasons.
Next Question...Did Charles expect to be traded to a team where she'd be the scoring champion, and NOT make the playoffs?
Third, Delle Donne has not been on the court as a full-time player for two seasons (Her three games are not much more than tune-ups) due to her back injury. With all due respect, Elena is on wrong side of 30. What is the plan with her going forward?
The Mystics honestly and truthfully have not made the necessary steps to be a championship team since 2019. I believe that Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen (the latter who enters restricted Free Agency) are cornerstone pieces for the future. But beyond them, there is not that much to root for.
Emma Meesseman was the WNBA Finals MVP in 2019 and has been at her peak since personally. But she didn't play in the WNBA in 2021. Given her overseas commitments, it isn't a stretch to say that she won't play in the league again for quite some time, so losing her is just like any other team losing a superstar in free agency -- for nothing. Natasha Cloud is on a big contract of her own, but she has regressed since her 2018 and 2019 seasons.
My point is that this roster needs a major overhaul. It's time to rebuild for the future because the Mystics lacked continuity and an identity. An identity of being a solid championship-contending team anyway.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not 2019 anymore. We have to look in the mirror and realize that other teams, like the Seattle Storm, Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun are better built for the future. And they aren't positioned to have a surprise championship playoff run like the Chicago Sky either.
While the Mystics have rebuilt successfully because of savvy trades (Delle Donne in 2017) or finding overachievers in late rounds of the draft (Meesseman in 2013, Cloud in 2015), Thibault hasn't been very good at keeping his first round picks in Washington, even if they turned into All-Stars. Here is a runthrough of them.
- 2013: Tayler Hill (Traded in 2018 to the Dallas Wings. Now she's no longer in the league)
- 2014: Stefanie Dolson & Bria Hartley (Traded in 2017 to the Chicago Sky and New York Liberty, respectively.)
- 2015: Ally Malott (Bust, waived after the 2016 season)
- 2016: Kahleah Copper (Traded in 2017 to the Chicago Sky)
- 2017: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Traded to the New York Liberty in 2020, though she was traded again to the Phoenix Mercury soon after. Walker-Kimbrough did return to the Mystics in 2021 however.)
- 2018: Ariel Atkins (Cornerstone/Future)
- 2019: Kiara Leslie (Released during the 2021 season)
- 2020: No picks due to Tina Charles trade
- 2021: Lottery Pick (Crossing fingers it is the Number 1 Pick)
In summary, the Washington Mystics and Thibault must look in that mirror this offseason. The way Washington is constructed, and their tight salary cap is, the Mystics can not afford to make any mistakes. I believe it is best for the team and start building for a future with a foundation of Atkins and Hines-Allen. Everyone else must be expendable.