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The 5 best things from the Mystics' 2015 season

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Our Mystics season review continues with five accomplishments the team made this past summer.

Stopping Maya Moore was one of the Mystics' highlights in their 2015 season. Now if only they faced the Lynx in the Finals...
Stopping Maya Moore was one of the Mystics' highlights in their 2015 season. Now if only they faced the Lynx in the Finals...
Stewart W. Small

No matter how good or bad any season goes, there are always some things that any team can be proud of accomplishing.

I have had some time now to reflect on the 2015 Mystics season over the last month. Here are the five things that Mike Thibault, The Washington Posts duo of Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson, and friends can hang their hats on:

1. The Mystics swept the Minnesota Lynx twice in the last three seasons

In back-to-back games, the Mystics defeated the 2015 WNBA champions in each of their regular season games. It should also be noted that Washington did the same in 2013 with a roster than was led by a very different group than the one you saw last summer.

Going back to 2015, it's not like Washington managed to eke out a couple victories while facing a more talented team that "slept at the wheel." The Mystics won comfortably at home, 77-69 on Sunday, August 16 and followed it up with a 79-61 blowout on the road the following Wednesday.

In those two games, the Mystics also held Maya Moore to two uncharacteristically lackluster performances. Take a look at Moore's stats vs. the Mystics and the 2015 season as a whole:

FG FGA FG% PPG RPG
vs. Mystics 6 25 24.00% 11 6.5
2015 season 238 566 42.05% 20.6 6.7

If stopping one of the WNBA's top three players wasn't enough, the Mystics beat the Lynx a whopping four times in 2015 when you include May's analytics scrimmage and preseason game in May.

Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the 2015 WNBA championship. But the Mystics have your number and it ain't even close.

2. We are finally seeing the young core emerging as the leaders of this team

I hate to give the long-winded take on this, but I feel it is appropriate in this case.

Back this past summer, I wrote about Paul Pierce's departure being an opportunity for younger stars like John Wall to take that active role this fall. Even though it's an opportunity for Wall, it's also a role we expect him to play on a daily basis. Remember that team meeting back in November 2013? That was when a number of veterans mandated that Wall be that leader.

It's been said here enough times that the Mystics don't have a "John Wall" on their team. Or in WNBA terms, they don't have a "Sue Bird" -- though Thibault and some fans would probably disagree with that.

Despite their lack of sure-fire star talent, the Mystics have built their roster around homegrown youth over the past three seasons. Seven of the 12 players on Washington's roster started their careers in D.C., and most played significant roles on the team in 2015:

Player Rookie Year Draft Pick No. 2015 Role
Tayler Hill 2013 4 sixth man
Emma Meesseman 2013 19 core starter
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt 2013 Undrafted starter
Stefanie Dolson 2014 6 core starter
Bria Hartley 2014 7 reserve guard
Ally Malott 2015 8 reserve forward
Natasha Cloud 2015 15 starter

Of this group of seven homegrown Mystics players, four of them are starters. Two of them -- Meesseman and Dolson -- were 2015 WNBA All-Star reserves. I will admit that I was frustrated that Thibault didn't give enough of his young players starting roles right away in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. But in 2015, I was glad that he has ultimately went with players in this group.

Next season, don't be surprised if all of Washington's starters come out of this group.

3. The Mystics have set a standard of consistency in a good way

Before Mike Thibault was hired in the 2013 season, the Mystics made the playoffs in consecutive seasons once in 2009 and 2010. In addition, they never made the playoffs more than two years in a row.

Since then, the Mystics have made the playoffs in each of Thibault's three seasons. I am still not exactly sure why a Mystics 2015 playoff berth (and another one-and-done playoff appearance) makes sense for them in the long term. But I'll admit that I'm someone who is in favor of teams going through long and possibly painful rebuilds that ultimately end up with a superstar coming out of that process.

Despite my "pro-tanking sentiment," I have to acknowledge that there is merit to the argument that the Mystics needed to go for that third consecutive playoff appearance last summer. That appearance all but seals the deal that the Washington Mystics franchise takes itself seriously.

In the years before Thibault arrived, the Mystics were perennially viewed as a "Mickey Mouse" franchise. Almost any bad season would have been fodder for WNBA fans looking for a team to put down.

Though another lottery pick for the top-heavy 2016 draft would have been great, it still comes at a cost of a "setback season" of sorts. If you disagree with me on how teams should rebuild, you can make the argument that tanking 2015 could have hurt the Mystics' chemistry to a point to where even a top pick can't "solve everything" the following year.

4. Washington cut their turnover percentage big time from last lseason

In the 2014 season, the Mystics had an offensive TOV% of 16.28 percent, 10th in the WNBA. In the 2015 season, their TOV% was 14.35 percent, third in the league.

Though Thibault may have wished that the team's pace would be quicker -- like this year's Wizards team, efficiency is more important than how fast a team plays, at least in a vacuum.

5. The Styx can shoot effectively from almost anywhere on the court

You may be slightly disappointed because Washington shot 23.1 percent of their shots from the dreaded 16-21 foot zone.

But what if told you that the Mystics shot at around or above the league average from virtually anywhere on the court? Take a look at this table below:

TWO POINT SHOTS THREE POINT SHOTS
1-5 ft 6-10 ft 11-15 ft 16-21 ft 22-25 ft 26+ft
FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG%
Mystics 334 606 55.12% 85 224 37.95% 100 253 39.53% 195 504 38.69% 161 435 37.01% 44 158 27.85% 205 593 34.57%
WNBA 5273 9551 55.21% 930 2639 35.24% 1012 2637 38.38% 2156 5817 37.06% 1742 5133 33.94% 223 907 24.59% 1965 6040 32.53%

The short way to summarize this table is this. The Mystics are a very good shooting team because they are using the right personnel to make certain types of shots.

Washington was one of the league's top three point shooting teams in 2015. Ivory Latta led the WNBA in total three pointers where she made 56 of 137 threes (40.9 percent) from 22-25 feet, AND 23 of 66 (34.8 percent) three from 26 or more feet away. No WNBA player came even close to her based on the combination of quantity and efficiency of her long distance shots, especially those from 26 or more feet away.

If you're wondering who was taking and making a large proportion of the Mystics' midrange shots, it's Emma Meesseman. It's true that 16-21 foot shots are to be avoided, but she made 50 of 108 (46.3 percent) of those shots in 2015. Further more, Meesseman shot 50 percent or better from the field in 2015 from all over the court except for three point range where she was 6-of-13 for the year.

I have a lot more to say about Meesseman in the coming weeks, but let's just say that she has the potential to be a very special player if she can keep this up in the years ahead.