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Who will make the Mystics’ opening day roster?

With only 12 roster spots available, the Mystics will probably have to cut one of the players from their 2017 squad.

Stewart W. Small

The Washington Mystics are continuing their training camp this week where they will have to make some decisions on who to keep on their opening day roster. On Tuesday, they cut Tanaya Atkinson and Tinara Moore.

Both Atkinson and Moore were undrafted training camp invitees so it is not surprising to see that they were among the first cut from the roster. But the Mystics still have to pare down their roster 12 active players before their season opener on May 20. Which players are locks and which players are perhaps on notice?

“Locks” for the 2018 Mystics roster

WNBA teams are allowed to have up to six players who are on guaranteed contracts. That means these players are guaranteed to get paid for the year and will make the roster.

In a more practical sense, the guaranteed players are generally those who are starting and make big contributions to the team. So the list of players who are “locks” should be pretty easy. They are:

  1. Emma Meesseman - She isn’t in training camp and won’t play this season. But Meesseman is one of the six players who are confirmed to be on a guaranteed deal so she’s a lock.
  2. Elena Delle Donne - EDD is the franchise player and in her prime. Nuff said.
  3. Tayler Hill - The Mystics’ first round pick in 2013 has developed into a solid starting guard over her five-year career. In fact, I think she should have been an All-Star in 2016 if there was a game. Hill will sit out until June while she rehabs from an ACL tear, but she’s too valuable to be cut.
  4. Kristi Toliver - She was one of the top unrestricted free agents in 2017 and is one of the best three point shooters in the league.
  5. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt - TRP is the Mystics’ heart and soul. She’s not the most talented player on the roster, but her motor and work ethic, especially on defense cannot be questioned. If she can get her offensive game going, that would be excellent!
  6. Krystal Thomas - Thomas was one of the WNBA’s most improved players in 2017 and is coming off a great season in Turkey. I can’t wait to see how she does this summer to be honest.
  7. Monique Currie - The veteran small forward has more than earned her stripes over the years. Currie also remained very consistent since her rookie season which you can’t say about most players.
  8. Ariel Atkins - Thibault gave Atkins high remarks when he drafted her seventh overall on April 12, ahead of other players like Kia Nurse, Victoria Vivians, and Maria Vadeeva among others. The 2018 Draft class is deep and the Mystics certainly don’t want to cut a first round pick. But Atkins was one of the top wings in the class, and she should get a full opportunity to showcase herself in the WNBA.

Players who should make the roster

These players aren’t among the Mystics’ best. But they have provided considerable contributions in the past and figure to continue or build on those roles in 2018.

  1. Tianna Hawkins - Hawkins averaged a career high 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds last season. She has shown the potential to be a stretch power forward herself with her three point shooting. With Meesseman gone, Hawkins has a prime opportunity to grow into that type of role.
  2. Natasha Cloud - Cloud is now in her fourth WNBA season, and the Mystics have to decide whether she’s a long term piece in D.C. or not. Cloud made the roster as a 2015 second round pick and has shown promise as a passer and defender. I don’t see Cloud being shown the door because she can play multiple positions. But Cloud’s lack of consistent shooting ability to this point makes her vulnerable to a roster move.
  3. LaToya Sanders - Sanders could have been a defensive stopper with TRP if she was not injured. Look forward to seeing what she provides this season after a year in Ekat with Meesseman and Toliver.

Players who are on the fence

Meesseman won’t play this season, which allows the Mystics the opportunity to pick up one more player to get to 12 on the active roster. Hill is out until June, the final roster spots are likely be down to the guards who perform best in training camp. I expect two of these three players to make the final team on opening day.

Since 11 players were already named including Meesseman, one of these three will be waived, presumably after this Saturday’s preseason game against the Fever.

  1. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough - Walker-Kimbrough made the All-Rookie Team in 2017 but had inconsistent playing time all year. She’ll have more playing time in the first few weeks with Hill out.
  2. Allison Hightower - Hightower provided strong play in the latter half of the 2017 season and was once an All-Star back in 2013 though injuries derailed her soon after.
  3. Myisha Hines-Allen - Hines-Allen scored 13 points off the bench last Sunday against the Lynx. According to Danielle Lerner of the Louisville Courier Journal, Thibault drafted Hines-Allen for her toughness and her ability to make shots beyond the post. I think Hines-Allen has the longest shot of the three to make the opening day roster, but strong practices in training camp and Saturday’s preseason game could be enough for Thibault to keep her for opening day.

Players who are likely cuts

The remaining players here are players who are likely to be waived.

  1. Devereaux Peters - It’s kinda tough for me to call a recent first round pick a likely cut. Peters also had a strong defensive showing against the Lynx last Sunday, so another strong showing on Saturday could make things tougher for Thibault when he decides which post players make it to opening day.
  2. AJ Alix - Alix scored 3 points on 1 of 4 shooting in the preseason game against the Lynx. As another point guard, she could be a threat to Cloud in theory, but Cloud has more size and positional versatility.
  3. Asia Taylor - Taylor didn’t play much on the 2017 Mystics team. Even with Meesseman out this season, they’re bringing back Sanders and Hawkins is coming into her own as well.