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Keys to the Palace: Hill, Latta, and Walker-Kimbrough stand out in the first week

Stewart W. Small

The Mystics started 1-2 in the 2017 season. They beat the San Antonio Stars last Mother’s Day at home before losing twice on the road to the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks last Friday and the Seattle Storm last Sunday.

We have given Keys to the Palace with the Wizards each week during the regular season. We also did so for the Mystics last season. But if you’re reading this for the first time or are wondering what “Keys” are, let’s go through an overview on how these virtual awards are handed out:

Key to the Palace - A player who consistently plays above expectations, given her role. For example, Elena Delle Donne is going to have to do a lot more on the court to get a Key than Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

Guest Pass - A player who plays within the norms of her role. There’s room for variation here because some players have above average but unspectacular weeks while other played below average but weren’t playing poorly.

Lockout - A player who consistently plays below expectations — even when they’re having a bad day.

Make sense? Let’s get to the weekly evals!

Keys to the Palace

Tayler Hill, 16 ppg, 2.3 apg

Hill averaged 42.4 percent shooting in the first week of the season while maintaining her season average. I also like that she’s still quite aggressive getting to the line 42.4 percent shooting isn’t anything terribly special, but Hill hasn’t shot close to this in any season of her career. Her best performance was a 20 point, 7 of 15 shooting effort against the Sparks last Friday.

Ivory Latta, 9 ppg

Latta shot 46,2 percent from three and made two threes a game in each contest this season.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, 10 points in the Seattle game

Walker-Kimbrough finally played in the Seattle game last Sunday after two straight DNP-CD’s to start the season. It isn’t that she scored 10 points, she also shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. When you start your career on the right foot like that, you’re gonna earn more playing time.

Guest Passes

Elena Delle Donne, 21.7 ppg

The good news: EDD is scoring as much as we’d like her to. More good news: She’s making over 60 percent of her shots!

The bad news: EDD isn’t contributing anywhere else, and her three point efficiency is at 22.2 percent right now. I’m not worried about the latter changing.

Kristi Toliver, 9.3 ppg, 3.3 apg

The Mystics’ starting point guard has played more minutes than anyone else so far. Her shooting efficiency and assisting is on point. Besides her 15 point performance against the Sparks last Friday, she didn’t have any stand out games ... yet because her usage rating was ... 14.4 percent. With Emma Meesseman soon heading to Europe, Toliver needs to be more assertive and get more involved in the offense.

Emma Meesseman, 7.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.7 apg

Mystics fans will be quick to say that “passive Emma” has returned with a vengeance. Her usage rating was just 16.7 percent, which was exacerbated by her four point performance against the Sparks. However, at this point, we kind of get that Meesseman isn’t going to gun for shots like Delle Donne or Hill. She will do other things that people don’t necessarily appreciate.

Fortunately, her first game against the Stars (13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, one block) is the type of game we want to see in her each time. She’s capable of this in her sleep, and I’d like to see her be a point forward of sorts once she’s back from EuroBasket Women.

Natasha Cloud, 4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3 apg

Cloud’s standout performance was a 7 point, 8 assist effort against the Sparks last Friday in just 23 minutes. She could play more minutes or start if these types of performances hold up.

Tianna Hawkins, 4.3 ppg, 4 rpg

Hawkins’ best game was a 9 point, 6 rebound effort against the Stars. Even after that game, Hawkins remained a consistent rebounder off the bench.

Krystal Thomas, 2 ppg, 4 rpg

Like Hawkins, Thomas has remained consistent as a rebounder. She’s also grabbed 4 rebounds in each game this season in just about 10 minutes per game.

Lockout

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, 4.7 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.7 apg

Last year, I’d give TRP a guest pass and be comfortable with it. Like Meesseman, TRP regularly contributes in multiple non-scoring areas. And to be honest, I think she played well in every area except shooting.

But as you might expect, her shooting is what locked her out. A professional player can’t shoot 17.6 percent from the floor over three games and expect to be a starter for long. This needs to change.

Maybe I’m being harsh like Randy Wittman was on Marcin Gortat that one time he grabbed one rebound. But starting players must shoot better than 20 percent over three games.

Too little time for an evaluation

Asia Taylor and Jennie Simms played sparingly, so they did not get an evaluation.