The Washington Mystics will begin their 2020 WNBA season campaign this weekend. Given the number of departures this season due to possible coronavirus complication concerns (Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles), social justice reasons (Natasha Cloud) or general safety concerns (LaToya Sanders), I think we can definitely say that the 2020 Mystics aren’t going to repeat as champions.
That said, the Mystics could still punch well above their perceived weight.
So here are five predictions on the 2020 season
No. 1: Emma Meesseman will be an MVP candidate
Before this season began, some were wondering whether Meesseman should back up Tina Charles. I found that to be belittling to the reigning WNBA Finals MVP, even though Meesseman herself may not have minded being a reserve this season.
At any rate, Charles isn’t playing, Delle Donne isn’t either. This is Meesseman’s team now (from a colloquial sense).
I get that she will have plenty of assistance from a cast that includes Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers among others. But she’s clearly Washington’s best player returning from last year’s championship team. We’ll get to them later in this post.
The 27-year-old Meesseman was the second leading scorer on last year’s team despite missing many games due to Women’s EuroBasket 2019. Since we won’t have the Olympics or any European competitions to distract her, Meesseman will get to focus all of her energy on this team alone. I can realistically see a 50-40-90 season from her in 2020, and she SHOULD be one of the contenders for this year’s WNBA MVP award.
In past years, Meesseman would have abdicated being the dominant scorer we have seen in last year’s finals. But after winning a title as their central figure, Delle Donne included, I just don’t see it happening now!
No. 2: Aerial Powers and Ariel Atkins will have All-Star caliber seasons
Powers averaged 11.4 points per game while coming off the bench in most games last season while Atkins averaged 10.3 points per game and earned her second mention to the All-WNBA Second Defensive Team.
With Kristi Toliver and Natasha Cloud out of the picture this season, they will get larger roles as Meesseman’s partners in crime. And since both were part of Washington’s “Final Five” in the fourth quarter of the last game of the 2019 WNBA Finals, there’s no reason why I think they’ll shy away from the spotlight in 2020 even if Toliver re-signed and if Cloud decided to play.
In the end, I can see both playing at an All-Star level.
No. 3. Washington can make the semifinals this season as constructed
I’ve been asked about how far I can see the Mystics go this season. Given that the Seattle Storm aren’t seeing any departures and that the Los Angeles Sparks are mostly intact, I just don’t see Washington repeating.
That doesn’t mean that the Mystics are destined for the lottery.
I think the Meesseman/Powers/Atkins trio will be the engine that leads Washington to more wins than losses this season. Leilani will fill Toliver’s shoes well as a three-point shooter and as a point guard. And other reserves like Tianna Hawkins and Myisha Hines-Allen will also have more prominent roles than they did last year.
The Mystics have consistently punched above their weight since General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault arrived in 2013 and I don’t see any signs of that slowing down.
They will make the playoffs but will likely have to start in the first or second round as a 4th through 6th overall seed. But I think Washington has enough firepower and coaching to get to a fourth consecutive semifinals appearance. Considering the roster turnover from last season, that will be nothing short of a resounding success.