THAT WAS YESTERDAY
Winning the first championship in history back in 2019 seems like it was only yesterday when the Washington Mystics won their first WNBA championship but, fast-forwarding to 2022 the taste of the champagne is starting to dissolve. The Mystics the last two seasons were crossroads, but the elephant in the room is now that the culture has been reset, what does the 2022 season outlook?
2020 was a transition year, but 2021 showed the cracks
The Washington Mystics under Mike Thibault since the 2013 season, have always had a bumpy journey, from draft picks that endured injuries, didn't pan out, or were not given the opportunities to maximize their potential. The Mike Thibault-led Mystics teams have always had an identity, but in the last two seasons, the question we had to ask was, what was the identity of the Washington Mystics?
Without Tina and Elena in the bubble during the 2020 season, the Mystics still made the playoffs but were eliminated by Phoenix in the first round.
Fast forward to 2021, The Washington Mystics season was Tina and Friends, and Elena was not ready to play due to her back injuries (Elena only played three games during the 2021 season), the team had to deal with injuries, inconsistencies, and questionable free agency signings, and cuts the Mystics finished 12-21.
Going into the offseason do we RESET or REBUILD?
48 hours after the Mystics blew two opportunities to make the playoffs, in an exit interview Mike stated "I'm a big believer in the old Bill Parcell's [saying] 'you are what the scoreboard says you are' and we're 12-20 and we have a lot of reasons," Thibault said at the end of the season. "Some are good excuses, and some are not. But the fact of the matter is that we’re not in rebuild mode but a reset button mode. We need to reset our culture and how we go about things, and we need to redevelop an identity. And I don't think we had an identity of being good at anything this year."
The Washington Mystics’ longest-tenured guard Natasha Cloud even gave hints at what needed to change going forward. "But I am proud of our resiliency. I’m proud of our fight. But there are a lot of things that we need to get better at. And I think all of us need to go look in the mirror and self-reflect and figure out which ways we need to be better and whether it’s skill-wise, whether it’s mentality-wise, whether it’s being a good teammate, whether it’s consistency and poise. There’s a lot of room for growth."
The Washington Mystics under Mike Thibault since the 2013 season, have always had a bumpy journey, from draft picks that endured injuries, didn't pan out, or were not given the opportunities to maximize their potential. The Mike Thibault-led Mystics teams have always had an identity, but in the last two seasons, we have to ask the question: What is the Washington Mystics' identity?
Mike Thibault had to sit back and understand this team had to not only rebuild but reset for the long term, with now arguably the worse WNBA one-sided trade for Tina Charles (Tina did not play in 2020), and Elena Della Donne's back injury two seasons later, and Tina departed for Phoenix. The Mystics had to make the right moves in the offseason
The Mystics DID redefine the identity that we had not had since 2019
Additions: Elizabeth Williams, Tianna Hawkins, Rui Machida
Departures: Tina Charles, Theresa Plaisance, Shavonte Zellous, Sydney Wiese, Lelani Mitchell
The Draft Was the Icing on the Cake
With this draft to set the tone for the future, the last two years going off of Mike's quote "We need to reset our culture and how we go about things, and we need to redevelop an identity."
We were awarded the #1 pick in the draft.
Mike Thibault made a fantastic choice in trading down, and trading with Atlanta for the 3rd pick and some draft capital with the 14th pick with the right to exchange 1st Round Picks in 2023 with the Los Angeles Sparks that the Dream received in a trade.
Shakira Austin is an excellent defender who can be a foundational piece for the Mystics on that end with her verticality and lateral quickness.
Chrislyn Williams will be out for the season, but Chrislyn brings a defensive mentality and off-the-ball movement that will be good for any team.
The Mystics are realistically built for a championship with depth, but they can be a team healthy? Staying healthy is the key, the free-agent acquisitions, and what the Mystics did in this draft have set the tone for the future.
Opening Day Roster
PG: Natasha Cloud, Katie Benzan, Rui Macinda
SG: Ariel Atkins, Shatori Walker Kimbrough, Alysha Clark*
SF: Elena Della Donne*, Tianna Hawkins
PF: Myesha Hines-Allen
C: Shakira Austin, Elizabeth Williams
2022 SEASON PREDICTION
Record: 20 Wins