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The Mystics’ playoff hopes are effectively finished for 2020, setting the stage for an uncertain offseason

There are just seven games left in the 2020 WNBA season for Washington. And the schedule isn’t looking very pretty. That sets the stage for an interesting offseason with many important decisions ahead.

Connecticut Sun v Washington Mystics
Emma Meesseman and the Washington Mystics are very unlikely to see the postseason.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics are 4-11 in the 2020 WNBA season, or 10th place in the WNBA standings. Kevin Broom explained last week that 2019 starters’ absences and Emma Meesseman’s significant decline are largely to blame for their poor play this summer in Bradenton, Florida.

Now, even though Washington isn’t dead last in the standings, is there a chance that they could sneak into the eighth spot? Probably not.

Yes, the Mystics are just 1.5 games behind the Dallas Wings for eighth. However, Washington still has seven more games to play. All but their final two games against the New York Liberty on Sept. 12 and Atlanta Dream on Sept. 13 are against teams in the top eight. Washington will play the Wings on Sept. 6, however, and a win could help them keep things interesting in the playoff race.

That said, the Mystics have played poorly this season and I don’t expect that to change.

Too often, we’ve seen Washington play teams close in the beginning, only to see them get blown out in the end. Or we see Meesseman have a big first quarter and fizzle out the rest of the way. Granted, she has a shoulder injury this season (which may explain her shooting slump), but still.

Barring Washington winning all of their remaining games, it’s difficult to see them making the playoffs altogether. And that leads me to my next point: the Mystics will head into a very tough offseason where they seriously need to determine whether a hypothetical Delle Donne return in 2021 can lead the team back to where it was in 2019. Or if it’s time to blow it up.

Unlike the Golden State Warriors NBA team, which had a significant decline in 2020-21 season due to numerous player injuries, the Mystics will not have the luxury of a high draft pick next year. Washington traded it and more picks to get Tina Charles last winter. And Charles isn’t playing this season. Since Charles is on a one-year contract, it would be a tough pill to swallow if she plays elsewhere next season.

Meesseman is also in a contract year, but her circumstances are different. As a Belgian national, she has missed time in the last three years to play in continental competitions for that team, and they will be in next year’s Olympics. Does she return? Do the Mystics try to core her if another WNBA team wants to sign her? Do they try to trade her for another piece?

Or does Meesseman, at a minimum, skip the 2021 WNBA season? If she decides to skip 2021 (or more), then that lowers her trade value.

So much for the juggernaut frontcourt fans were hoping for last spring.

The guard situation isn’t that much better. Natasha Cloud is a free agent too this offseason. She is under no obligation to return to the Mystics, even though I think she will.

Just a year ago, the Mystics were enjoying their best season in franchise history, and many fans were thinking this team could be a dynasty. I never thought that Washington had the talent aligned just right to form a dynasty, but I also never thought that the Mystics could be entering the 2020-21 WNBA offseason wondering whether it is time to blow it up and rebuild.

While my heart wants to see all of the 2020 players band up together for 2021, I’m also realistic that personal circumstances can change. The coronavirus pandemic has definitely altered the Mystics’ path this season. But wow.

Last spring, I never seriously thought that the Mystics could be entering this offseason where they have to just ... start over. Now, I do.