Who is on the Mystics’ Opening Day Roster?
|9||Natasha Cloud||G||6-0||3||ST. JOSEPH'S (PA)|
|11||Elena Delle Donne||F-G||6-5||5||DELAWARE/USA|
|4||Tayler Hill||G||5-9||5||OHIO STATE/USA|
|14||Tierra Ruffin-Pratt||G||5-11||5||NORTH CAROLINA/USA|
|30||LaToya Sanders||F-C||6-3||5||NORTH CAROLINA/USA|
Why isn’t Ivory Latta on the Mystics? Hasn’t she been really good?
Latta was an unrestricted free agent after the 2017 season and the Mystics chose not to re-sign her. Washington already was starting Kristi Toliver while Natasha Cloud is a cheaper option because she is still on a rookie contract.
Latta also declined in her performance and suffered some injuries in the last couple of years and did not have a bounceback year shooting from three with Elena Delle Donne last season. It’s harsh that these are reasons not to re-sign Latta. But when there are only 12 roster spots, sometimes you have let good players go because they can’t get healthy or when they aren’t improving, even after a superstar arrives.
Why isn’t Emma Meesseman on the roster?
Meesseman is sitting the 2018 season because she wants to rest after playing year round for six years. In addition, the Belgium women’s national team wanted her to miss the WNBA Playoffs because they want to train for the World Cup.
It is true the Meesseman is only 25 years old and not in her prime yet, so missing a year to rest (let’s take out the national team part) is perplexing to most Americans. In most cases, a 25 year old WNBA player is just in her third or fourth season. But Meesseman never played college basketball, which is why she was able to play for the Mystics before her 20th birthday in 2013.
Also, Meesseman showed signs of burnout in the 2017 WNBA season and her efficiency declined last season. That said Meesseman played most of last season without Tayler Hill and Delle Donne so defenses focused solely on slowing her down. That’s gotta be a morale killer as well when you think about it.
Can the Mystics play with the chemistry they showed in June 2017?
Multiple WNBA analysts openly insinuate that the team could be better off without Meesseman, pointing to their 8-3 record without her in late May and June 2017. That also happened to be when the whole team was healthy.
If the Mystics play like they did without Meesseman for the entire regular season, they could realistically get a Top-4 playoff seed and a first round bye. But if not, the Mystics are probably going to be a sixth through eighth seed in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.
Will Tayler Hill improve her shooting efficiency and shot selection?
The sixth year guard will miss the first few games for knee rehab. Though she has emerged as one of the Mystics’ top scorers in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Hill has yet to shoot close to 40 percent overall any year. Last year she shot just 36.1 percent from the field — a career high.
One of Hill’s tendencies is to drive to the basket and look to get fouled by taking a shot. Her free throw rate was 46.9 percent in 2016 and 41.9 percent last year. If she missed a shot and drew a foul, the shot wouldn’t count. But if Hill missed a shot near the basket and could not draw a foul, then those missed field goals add up.
Hill has to improve her shot selection when she returns, even if she’s expected to be Delle Donne’s “Robin” over the next couple seasons.
How will the power forward position look longer term?
Meesseman and Delle Donne are natural power forwards in the WNBA game. But Delle Donne moved to the small forward position in the end of the 2017 regular season because Krystal Thomas was playing really, really good at the center position as a low usage, but high rebounding post. If the Mystics have a strong regular season with Delle Donne firing on all cylinders at the power forward position, it leads to an interesting question.
What do they do with Meesseman in the 2019 season assuming she plays after EuroBasket Women 2019?
One option is to move her to the center position. But Thomas has blossomed there. Another option is to move Delle Donne to small forward again because she is a better perimeter player than Meesseman. But if I had to answer that question today, I think Meesseman will have to be a sixth man.
Will this team improve its perimeter shooting?
Last year’s Mystics team had many great shooters, but few were efficient from the three point line. Hopefully the law of averages even out this season.
While we’re on the subject of threes, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Natasha Cloud are perimeter players who still struggle to deliver on offense. TRP only made 33.7 percent of her shots while Cloud made just 31.4 percent overall and their three point shooting was worse that that. If they weren’t very good defenders, passers, and rebounders for their positions, TRP and Cloud would have trouble getting playing time or making a team altogether.
Bottom line: TRP and Cloud must improve their ability to make shots, especially from three. It’s not just about make Delle Donne’s life easier. If rookies Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen can be more dependable as shooters while TRP and Cloud still have trouble making shots, then the rookies will get more time at the expense of long-time veterans.
In the meantime, Monique Currie is back in Washington and she is also capable of holding down the fort at the wing if the Mystics current veteran wings aren’t.