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Keys to the Palace: Elena Delle Donne and Krystal Thomas stand out as the Mystics get into form

Stewart W. Small

I’m sorry we didn’t get Keys in last week. I just came back from vacation, and others were busy.

In the last couple weeks, we saw the Mystics grind out a five game win streak, only to see it end in emphatic fashion last Friday. We’ll cover the Mystics’ games from May 31 through June 11 for this set of evaluations.

Let’s get to some virtual hardware:

Keys to the Palace

Elena Delle Donne

Delle Donne’s shooting started out cold with a 3 of 15 performance against the Sun when she scored just 13 points. That said, she grabbed 12 rebounds. EDD went on to score 23 points in each of the Mystics’ next two games and grabbed another 15 rebounds in the June 4 matchup against the Dream. Bottom line, she earned her key for finding ways to contribute, even if her shot wasn’t falling.

Finally, Delle Donne missed the Lynx game, but showed her dominance in the third quarter against the Fever on Sunday, including this beauty of a shot clock violation-beating three:

And as a bonus, here’s her highlight reel from May:

Krystal Thomas

Thomas’ minutes have gone up considerably in the Mystics’s last five games, which coincide with Meesseman’s absence. She had a 10 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist performance against the Wings last Tuesday and an 11 point and 9 rebound outing against the Sun on May 31. Thomas saved her best performance for yesterday, as she scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a big win against the Fever.

I’ll admit wasn’t sold on Thomas as the Mystics’ starting center before this season started. But my mind’s changed quite a bit after seeing her take advantage of her extra playing time.

Guest Passes

Tayler Hill

Hill has scored 17 or more points in each of the Mystics’ games from May 26 to June 9. However, with the exception of the Lynx game last Friday, her shooting is still woefully inefficient.

Her shooting game is either shoot threes or drive to the basket and pray for a foul. I like that Hill is able to get to foul line. But I hate seeing her drive to the basket and throw a ball up every time hoping that she’s going to get a call all the time.

I was tolerant of that last year. But not so much this year. Though I was about to give her a lockout just because of inefficient shooting, Hill dished eight assists in the Sun game, which shows that she’s adding a new dimension to her skillset.

Kristi Toliver

Toliver’s best performance was against the Wings last Tuesday when she scored 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting. She has also made two or more threes in four of the Mystics’ last five games. I’ve seen some good moments from Toliver so far this season, but I haven’t been blown away just yet.

Ivory Latta

If I was giving keys for just last week, she earns a key quite comfortably after scoring double figures in each of the Mystics’ three games last week.

But her shooting performances the week before were poor though she made up for it somewhat with her assists. Still, a combined 2 of 16 shooting performance against the Sun and Dream on May 31 and June 4 were too much to ignore.

Still, I like her ability to make threes like she did against the Fever yesterday:

and the John Wall-esque energy she provides after making said plays:

Tianna Hawkins

Hawkins’ biggest performances included a 13 point, 6 rebound effort against the Dream on June 4 and a 6 point, 11 rebound performance yesterday against the Fever.

She can be very effective when she gets about 15 minutes a game, but perhaps there are diminishing returns when she gets starter minutes. Her first career start was last Friday against the Lynx where she played 32 minutes. but she only shot 2 of 11 for seven points. To be fair, she was a last minute replacement for EDD who sat the game out due to injury, AND the Lynx’s frontcourt is one of the strongest in the WNBA.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt

I think we know at this point that TRP will never be a super-efficient scorer, so it’s important to see what she does as a rebounder and assister. She’s averaged 3.5 assists in the Mystics’ last four games heading up to June 11 and grabbed eight rebounds yesterday in addition to scoring six points.

Overall, TRP is playing good basketball. But scoring isn’t her strength, Just consider that a plus when she has an 11 point night on 4 of 8 shooting like she did against the Dream on June 4.

Natasha Cloud

I was most impressed by her near triple double against the Wings last Tuesday (8 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists). But she otherwise didn’t have a standout performance in the last two weeks to warrant a key from me.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough

Walker-Kimbrough’s time has been erratic, so it’s a bit hard to evaluate her. That said, she didn’t do anything to warrant a lockout.

Jennie Simms

Simms saw game action in each game from June 4 through. She scored her first points against the Lynx last Friday, and I don’t think she made things worse by being out there. So, let’s give her a pass as her WNBA career begins.


Asia Taylor

Taylor managed to get three turnovers in 19 minutes of what was essentially garbage time against the Lynx last Friday. You just can’t do that and expect to get into pass territory.

Bonus Key: Emma Meesseman

She may be on the other side of the Atlantic, but Meesseman’s mind was clearly on Belgium when the season started. I don’t blame her because her country’s in EuroBasket for the first time in a decade. Check out our StoryStream to read how she’s doing there.

But why do I give her a token key though she isn’t in D.C. right now? It’s because we also watched her performances in Europe these last couple weeks.

Meesseman’s shooting is on point, she grabs more rebounds because Ann Wauters is not holding up her weight. But most importantly, Meesseman is still getting her numbers in an efficient manner even when her team loses to a major European team like Spain. You don’t see that happening too often in this day and age.