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WNBA Free Agency 2019: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt signs with the Los Angeles Sparks

The Mystics lose their longest tenured player in free agency.

WNBA: Finals-Seattle Storm at Washington Mystics
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt will be playing for the Los Angeles Sparks this season.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Brady Klopfer of The Athletic reported that Tierra Ruffin-Pratt will sign a contract with the Los Angeles Sparks for the 2019 season. She was one of the Mystics’ unrestricted free agents heading into this offseason.

The Sparks issued a release later that day.

Ruffin-Pratt played six seasons for the Mystics where she spent much of her time as a starting wing player from 2013-18. She averaged 6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.

Why Mystics fans will miss Ruffin-Pratt

If there is something that I liked the most about Ruffin-Pratt (or TRP as Mystics fans affectionately know her), it’s how she made it into the WNBA and carved herself a role over many seasons. She signed as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and made the opening day roster along with their first round pick in Tayler Hill and their second round picks, Nadirah McKenith and Emma Meesseman.

Washington was coming off a 5-29 season the year before and it was reasonable to assume that both of their second round picks would make the team. But an undrafted rookie faces nearly insurmountable odds because teams have small rosters (11 to 12 players each) and there are just 12 teams in the league.

TRP quickly became a consistent defender. During the Mystics’ rebuilding years from 2013 to 2016, she embraced that role, which partly explains why she became a regular starter from the 2015-17 seasons, even before other drafted players like Hill and Natasha Cloud.

Most WNBA players will have a special moment where they scored tons of points to lead their team to victory. TRP’s best moment wasn’t a game when she scored 20 however. It was actually a two-minute stretch in a playoff game against the Dallas Wings in 2017 that helped spark their run to the semifinals when she single-handedly dominated on both defense and offense. Without TRP’s run, the Mystics would have probably lost the game and seen their season come to an early end.

And TRP leaves the Mystics as their longest tenured player. Out of the four players in the Mystics’ 2013 rookie class, McKenith was cut before the 2014 season. Hill was traded to the Dallas Wings in 2018 for Aerial Powers. And though Meesseman is technically the longest tenured Mystics player now, she took a one-year break to rest and train with the Belgian national team. So losing TRP hurts because she persevered in her own way and was always there to represent D.C. each summer. She’s as true of a Mystic as it gets.

Why the Mystics couldn’t keep Ruffin-Pratt

Heading into the 2018-19 WNBA offseason, the Mystics were just not going to be able to keep all of their players on the 2018 team. They had limited cap space due to Meesseman’s, Delle Donne’s and Toliver’s maximum or near-max salaries. And their top priority was to re-sign Cloud, who is a multi-positional defender like TRP, but her shooting improved considerably in 2018 while TRP’s shooting remained low overall. LaToya Sanders’ re-signing took up cap space as well.

Also, Ariel Atkins’ breakout rookie season as a scorer and as a defender made her development a higher priority given the Mystics’ cap situation. And finally, the Mystics presumably need room to sign their first round draft pick and Kim Mestdagh. Ultimately, some players from the 2018 team weren’t going to return and TRP is one of them.

We’ll miss you TRP and best of luck with the Sparks this summer, until you play the Mystics of course!