It’s looking like the WNBA season may not likely happen this year. And even if the season happens (which we’ll be optimistic about), the banner raising and parade for the 2019 WNBA champions will be delayed.
Somehow, the Washington Mystics still managed to keep winning on and off the court. One of their biggest wins so far in 2020 is capitalizing in the offseason remaining superior to the rest of the league and outright 2020 contenders to win it all. Here’s a general overview of the Mystics’ transactions including gains and losses:
- February 10 - Kristi Toliver signs with Los Angeles Sparks
- February 11 - Elena Delle Donne re-signs
- February 13 - Leilani Mitchell signs
- February 17 - Emma Meesseman re-signs
- February 26 - Lee Suel Kang signs. She plays for Bucheon KEB Hana Bank in Korea.
- April 15 - Acquired Tina Charles via a three-team trade; Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the No. 12 pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft and all three picks of the 2021 WNBA Draft were traded to NY Liberty.
- April 17 - Drafted Jaylyn Agnew 24th and Sug Sutton 36th overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
The Mystics will miss Toliver, but her shoes are well-filled
Looking at the loss of Toliver, it seemed Mystics balanced that out with the gain of former Mercury guard Leilani Mitchell in her place. Washington was able to get a guard whom Head Coach Mike Thibault has coached and worked with before from the 2016 season. She also has similar strengths as Toliver.
One big area was in the three-point percentage department, although it seems we upgraded. Toliver in 2019 shot 36 percent from three-point range and 38.7 percent in her career. Mitchell, however, in 2019 shot 43 percent and 39.6 percent for her career from beyond the arc. Mitchell’s percentage could be higher because she doesn’t take as many “Hail Mary” shots when unnecessary.
Also, Washington played without Toliver in the final 11 games of the regular season. She had sustained a deep bone bruise and MCL strain in her right knee in August 2019 and didn’t play again until Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces in mid-September. In her absence, the Mystics went 10-1 clinched the number one seed and secured a double bye to the semifinals.
That may not say a lot because Washington was already pushing for the top seed, but it does show that the Mystics had enough to depth to manage without Toliver and will be able to do so going forward.
Welcome to D.C. Tina Charles!
An even bigger surprising offseason pick up was grabbing Tina Charles from the New York Liberty in exchange for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and draft picks consisting of the 12th pick in the 2020 draft and second and third round picks in the 2021 WNBA draft. The trade also included the Dallas Wings team as well. She averaged 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Liberty last season. Getting Charles now makes an interesting scenario as to the many different ways Thibault can address the five position.
The Mystics can now alternate between her, LaToya Sanders, Emma Meesseman, and even go small ball with Myisha Hines-Allen. The question now arises will Charles now take the starting center spot or will Sanders still keep hold? It’ll be interesting to see Charles possibly come off the bench which in turn could affect Meesseman’s minutes as a reserve as well. How will this truly work?
That’s more of an internal issue for Washington, whereas for their opponents it’s a huge problem in setting up a secure defensive plan. Other teams will now have to figure out how to transition their defense in accordance with the Mystics’ now powerhouse front-court.
The defending WNBA MVP and Finals MVP are back!
The last pieces to the Mystics’ winning offseason is the fact they’re home to the current and reigning 2019 WNBA League MVP, Elena Delle Donne, and 2019 WNBA Finals MVP, Emma Meesseman. While both signed contracts returning to Washington this season, Delle Donne signed for an additional four more years while Meesseman is on a one-year deal;.
No team has the formula to even begin to know how to defend Delle Donne and adding Meesseman just causes a world of chaos...for opponents that is. This all adds to the fact that about 98 percent of the 2019 championship team is returning.
With the Mystics holding that advantage of having majority of the team returning, the chemistry is already there. Sure, other teams added big names in an action-packed offseason, but it’s unclear whether these teams can develop the chemistry needed to go all the way.
Now that doesn’t mean that the Mystics won’t have to put in the work just like any other team, but I say that they have less to worry about. Their focus needs to be on running it back...championship style!