Today, we will start our player evaluations on the 2020 Washington Mystics. First off, we will begin with Emma Meesseman. She began this season coming off a WNBA Finals MVP award and perhaps even a shot at being the regular season MVP this season.
However, her 2020 season was a disappointment. Her production and trademark shooting efficiency declined. She missed some games due to injury. And now, she’s an unrestricted free agent heading into a 2021 season where Belgium will participate in the Olympics AND likely, another Women’s EuroBasket.
So, is Meesseman’s decline in 2020 just one bad year? Or has she already peaked? And finally, since Myisha Hines-Allen had a breakout season, is there a place for Meesseman on the Mystics long term?
How did Meesseman do in 2020?
In the 2020 season, Meesseman averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. She started in all but two games due to a shoulder injury she suffered midseason.
These numbers don’t sound bad on the surface. But Meesseman’s scoring rate and efficiency have dropped. Last season, she averaged 20 points per 36 minutes played and this season, it dropped to 14.8 points per 36 minutes, her lowest level since the 2014 season.
On the usage front, Meesseman continued to be heavily involved on offense, even if she wasn’t scoring. Her rate was at 21.6 percent, which was about the same as her rate last year which was 22 percent. In fact, her usage has been consistently in that range since the 2016 season.
What were Meesseman’s strengths this season?
Meesseman, this season aside, was known for her scoring efficiency. We would often see her shoot 60, 70 percent from the field in the game despite her teammates missing shots left and right during the pre-Elena Delle Donne years.
This year, Meesseman was best known for her passing. I know, early in her career, we’ve labeled her as pass-IVE. But Meesseman has become a very strong point forward and her pass-ING has been a valuable weapon of hers. Her assist average of 4.5 per game is tied for 10th in the league and third overall among all players listed as forwards and centers.
Meesseman’s assist percentage has also increased in each of her last four WNBA seasons, from 16.2 percent in 2016 to 25.3 percent this year. That rate isn’t far off the players with the Top 10 highest assist percentages with Indiana Fever guard Julie Allemand placing 10th with a rate of 27.5 percent.
And she has no fear of wild animals, especially in an environment like Florida when reptiles just hang out at people’s homes!
I can’t think of a single signature game Meesseman had this season. She only scored over 20 points once on August 5 in a loss to the Las Vegas Aces. That said, think Meesseman’s 12 point, 10 assist, 6 rebound game against the Dream on Aug. 19 was a good showcase of her skills as a scorer and passer this season.
What were her weaknesses?
Throughout her WNBA career, Meesseman has often been reluctant to shoot the ball at will, often despite being open, though this has changed in the last two or three seasons. While Meesseman isn’t one to just jack up 20 shots a game, she has consistently taken about 14-15 shots per 36 minutes in each season since 2016.
But this season, her shooting efficiency has dropped significantly. Her effective field goal percentage dropped from a career-high 59.5 percent last season to 48.1 percent this season. But perhaps much of this decline could be attributed to her midseason shoulder injury where she missed two games.
Meesseman also turned the ball over a lot, though this was before she missed time due to her shoulder injury. In games played through Aug. 19, Meesseman averaged 4.5 assists but also 2.6 turnovers per game. In her last nine games of the regular season, Meesseman averaged 4.6 assists and 1.2 turnovers per game.
In addition, her field goal percentage improved from 43.8 percent overall for games through Aug. 19 to 47.6 percent for her last nine games. These numbers aren’t as good as her 2019 ones, but still a bump nevertheless.
What is Meesseman’s future with the Mystics?
Meesseman is an unrestricted free agent unless the Mystics decide to core her. If they do, Washington would have to pay her a maximum level salary.
While I still love Meesseman’s game, I find it difficult for the Mystics to justify paying her over $200,000 entering an Olympic and EuroBasket year in 2021. Meesseman, who plays for the Belgium women’s national team, will miss time for Women’s EuroBasket once her team qualifies for it, and even more time for the Olympics. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her skip the 2021 WNBA season altogether assuming the Olympics and Women’s EuroBasket go on as scheduled.
But even if Meesseman plays in the WNBA in 2021, I don’t think the Mystics can re-sign her to a long term contract anyway.
Washington has salary cap issues to manage. They have to figure out whether to re-sign Tina Charles after trading their 2020 first round and all of their 2021 draft picks for her, despite not seeing her play a game this season due to coronavirus concerns. They have to decide whether to re-sign Natasha Cloud or core her instead.
And if that weren’t enough, Hines-Allen’s breakout quite frankly makes Meesseman expendable. Unlike Meesseman, Hines-Allen is an American player and is on a rookie contract. They need to save cap space for her as well as Ariel Atkins’ sophomore contracts.
What do you think the Mystics should do with Emma Meesseman this offseason as they look to manage their salary cap and frontcourt rotation? Let us know in the comments below.