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What we can learn from the Washington Mystics’ first four games

The Mystics are 2-2 and the season is still very young, but there are few early trends we can learn from

WNBA: MAY 26 Commissioner’s Cup - Washington Mystics at Chicago Sky Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics have played just four games so far this season. They are 2-2 with wins against the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky along with two losses to the Connecticut Sun. The Mystics haven’t suited up in five days after playing three games over the first five nights of the season. WNBA scheduling can be weird! Nonetheless, we can find trends within this tiny sample size that are interesting and could continue over the full season.

Up: Shakira Austin

The sophomore slump may not be a thing for Shakira Austin. She’s putting up 14 points and 8 rebounds a game, including a 21-point career-high effort against the Connecticut Sun. Last year, the Mystics players kept saying that Shakira “wasn’t good for her yet,” meaning that she’s barely scratched the surface of her abilities. She’s been a menace in the paint with a litany of post moves. Austin has also shown a knack for cutting and great hands, which has led to her shooting more at the rim on a similarly high percentage to her 2022 output. After her strong performance in Israel this offseason, it’s not surprising to see Austin off to a great start and there’s good reason to believe that it will continue.

Up: Transition

The Mystics had the league’s best defense last season but failed to use the defense to generate offense. They struggled to create live ball turnovers and get out on the break. This season, they’ve improved their transition game by a substantial amount. According to Synergy Sports, the Mystics have increased their transition possessions per game by 41% while scoring more efficiently on those possessions. Washington’s defense has caused more turnovers, specifically more live ball turnovers this season. It feels like the Mystics have been more explosive whether they running off a turnover or if they have inbound the ball. They’ve improved from dead last in pace in 2022 to seventh so far this year. The team is using fewer seconds per possession on both offense and defense, according to PBP Stats. The difference between last year’s numbers and those from first four games of this season isn’t great but hopefully it’s a sign that the Mystics will continue to improve in this area.

Down: Three-point shooting

The Mystics are currently the worst three-point shooting team in the WNBA. They’re hitting just 27% of their attempts from deep so far. Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud have combined to go 4 of 31 (10.8%) from beyond the arc. These percentages are likely to increase. Washington struggled mightly from deep last year and still hit 33.8% of their attempts. Atkins, in particular, should bounce back in a big way at some point. The fact that the team is taking so few threes is a bit more worrying. If their current numbers held for the entire year, Washington would register the fewest threes per game and lowest three point rate since 2017. They ranked 10th in threes per game last season and the offense struggled without the air support. DC hasn’t been able to replicate their 2019 offensive dominance in part due to their three-point shooting. In 2019, they ranked first in three-point rate and second in three-point percentage. The Mystics need to find a way to get more and better looks from three, then make them. It’s easier said than done.