At 29 and in her sixth year with the Washington Mystics, Tianna Hawkins has become one of the most recognizable names on the team. Despite missing time with a left knee injury, the 6-foot-3 forward still found a way to contribute to the team.
Drafted sixth overall in 2013 by the Seattle Storm, Hawkins, who attended the University of Maryland, was acquired by the Mystics on April 14, 2014. Since then, Hawkins has improved every season, earning more minutes and developing into a player Head Coach Mike Thibault depends upon.
For all that she does on the court, Hawkins plays a different role off of it. As one of six mothers who traveled to the WNBA bubble, Hawkins was accompanied by her five-year-old son, Emanuel.
Over the course of almost two months in Florida, Hawkins flawlessly balanced her responsibilities of helping send the Mystics to the playoffs and being with her son. On her Twitter page, her bio consists of two words: “Emanuel’s Mom.” The words are followed by two heart emojis.
When deciding whether or not to travel to Florida, Hawkins wanted to be sure that Emanuel would be able to accompany her. In the bubble, Emanuel served as a fan for the team, cheering on the Mystics and even trying to rattle the opposition at the free-throw line.
He was also there when the Mystics and the WNBA, among other sports leagues, decided they wouldn’t play in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. In the midst of a basketball season, Hawkins’s focus was on her son, wanting to protect him and worrying about the world he would grow up into. On this occasion, Hawkins was with her immediate family (Emanuel) as well as her basketball family (The Mystics).
Moving back to the court, Hawkins appeared in 18 games for the Mystics this season, including the playoffs. Of the 18 games she played, five were starts. Collectively, Hawkins missed a total of five games due to the left knee injury.
Averaging a career-high 19.4 minutes per game, Hawkins posted 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and shot 41-percent from the field on 7.6 attempts per game. Despite shooting 30-percent from three, Hawkins hit several clutch shots from behind the arc, including a trey in the waning moments of a crucial, late-season matchup against the Atlanta Dream.
By simply glazing over the stat sheet, it is easy to miss all of the little plays Hawkins makes every game that are undetectable by statisticians. Merely using stats to evaluate Hawkins’s game is a true disservice to her incalculable impact on the floor.
Hawkins does what traditional statistics don’t pick up. In the following clip, for example, she drives the lane and draws the defender towards her, thus opening up space for Ariel Atkins to take an uncontested three. Hawkins has an innate ability to move around the court and open up the court for her teammates. She sets high-screens and is an adept off-ball player.
Not only can Hawkins draw players away from their defensive assignments, she is also a force on the glass on both ends. Her defensive rebounding often serves as the catalyst to start the attack, and with timely offensive rebounding, Hawkins helps keep the ball away from opponents and extend possessions on offense.
Even in a season filled with highs and lows, Hawkins still dazzled on more than one occasion. Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the season came on August 9th against the Indiana Fever; Hawkins had a double-double, putting up 17 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. While in Florida, Hawkins scored in double digits eight times, including a season-high 19 against the Phoenix Mercury on August 23.
In terms of areas of improvement, there is nothing glaring about Hawkins’s game. She did commit the most fouls of her career (2.6 per game) and turnovers (1.2), but only by fractional margins — last season, she averaged 2.5 fouls and 1.1 turnovers. Any “increase” in fouls and turnovers can also be attributed to an expanded role within the offense.
Hawkins matched her career-high in blocks, but at just 0.4 per game, perhaps interior defense could be an area in which to improve. Hawkins’s three-point percentage was also down, she shot 30-percent, but on a greater volume (3.4 threes per game) than she had attempted in the past (2.9 in 2019).
Heading into 2020-21, Hawkins is a free agent. Thibault, who also wears the hat of general manager, has some difficult decisions to make this summer.
Acknowledging several high-profile free agents, the Mystics would be wise to bring back Hawkins; her experience in the league and within Thibault’s offense make her a vital member of the second unit. Amongst a myriad of signings set to come this offseason, if Hawkins remains with the team once the dust settles, Thibault will have done marvelously.