Thank you for the questions for December’s mailbag. The first questions are here, and we’ll have more of your questions tomorrow. Thanks!
There are more women’s college basketball players leaving early, though not at the same rates as their male counterparts. Can the Mystics draft Paige Bueckers in 2022? (multiple emails)
There are two age limits for WNBA draftees. Any women’s college basketball player, regardless of her FIBA nationality, must be at least 22 years old in the calendar year of the draft, or at least four years out of high school. Bueckers is a college basketball player and was born on Oct. 20, 2001. She will be 21 in the 2022 calendar year and is therefore not eligible, no matter how well she plays during her sophomore season at Connecticut. Bueckers could declare early for the 2023 WNBA Draft if she wishes.
While the WNBA offers a higher level of play than college, Bueckers could be able to make more money off her NIL deal with Gatorade (and possibly others) as a college basketball player representing UConn than as a WNBA rookie for the Mystics (or any other team) in 2023. That’s because women’s college basketball still has a bigger following than the WNBA, and it’s when these players, even future WNBA superstars remain the most marketable. So, it’s possible that Bueckers may just play all four years given that she is able to cash in on her stardom now.
As most of you are aware, Emma Meesseman was drafted by the Mystics in 2013 though she was just 19 years old when she was drafted. That’s because she is classified as an “international” player, who must be at least 20 years old in the calendar year of the draft. Furthermore, that player must have NEVER played women’s college basketball. Meesseman turned 20 on May 13, 2013, and never played college basketball, so she was able to play in the WNBA as a 20-year-old for that reason.
Given the current draft rules, the Mystics can pick any women’s college basketball senior, any women’s college basketball player that turns 22 in the 2022 calendar year who declares early or an international player who never played in college that turns 20 in the 2022 calendar year.
When will the tickets for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifiers be out? Will this be a great time for the Mystics to woo Emma Meesseman because the tournament is in Washington? (multiple emails, messages)
USA Basketball hasn’t officially named the venue to host Team USA, Belgium, Russia and Puerto Rico yet. They hope to have that done toward the end of this month or early next year. That said, it’s probably the Entertainment and Sports Arena, which FIBA stated in other releases.
As for Meesseman returning to D.C., it’s best that we as Mystics fans consider her homecoming as both a “Welcome Back” and as a “Farewell.” I don’t see her coming back to the WNBA again because of the Belgian women’s national basketball team’s standing in the world as one of the best.
The Cats become a world power in the last several years in large part due to Meesseman and we covered that at length here. And their international commitments (especially at the continental level) happen during the WNBA season. Barring the Belgian Cats doing a complete faceplant in February (and I don’t see them losing all of their games), the Cats are going to the World Cup, and that will affect any availability Meesseman has.
And most importantly General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault was not optimistic about her return, due to many of the same reasons I already mentioned.
Lots of updates from Mike Thibault today on @WashMystics roster beyond #1 pick: Elena Delle Donne & Alysha Clark are progressing well in injury rehab. But he's "not optimistic" that Emma Meesseman will play in #WNBA in 2022 because of Belgian national team duties.@TheNextHoops— Jenn Hatfield (she/her) (@jennhatfield1) December 19, 2021
And we didn’t even get to their salary cap situation yet!
But again, in summary, I don’t think Meesseman’s coming back to the WNBA — at least while she’s in her prime. So when the tickets for the World Cup Qualifiers are out, get them quickly so you can see her in D.C. one last time.
What’s your crew’s take on what to do about Thomas Bryant’s contract going forward? He’s in the last year of his deal and could attract some big offers in the offseason. Do we let him walk, resign him or trade him at the deadline to avoid losing him for nothing? (Evan Milberg, Twitter)
I actually interviewed Todd Ramasar, Bryant’s agent last week but haven’t had a chance to write a piece on it, since there were lots of games. But in short, Ramasar said that Bryant’s recovery is going as scheduled. And more importantly, before any player (not just Bryant) worries about his contract situation, the most important thing is to get healthy and back on the court.
It is possible Bryant could get a contract that pays well over $10 million per season in 2022-23 and beyond. But first, like Ramasar said, he has to play games and show what he can add to the center position in addition to Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell. In this respect, Bryant will add more three-point shooting though he isn’t the shot alterer that Gafford in particular is.
Finally, do I see Bryant walking away from Washington for nothing? I don’t. I think he gets signed and traded to another team, should he not play for the Wizards next season.