Like many Washington Mystics players who participated in the WNBA Bubble, Aerial Powers highlighted the tremendous depth General Manager/Head Coach Mike Thibault has at his disposal. The fifth-year pro out of Michigan State University showed just how valuable of a player she is to this Washington squad.
In the Mystics’ first game of the 2020 campaign against the Indiana Fever, Powers helped pace the offense with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists on 71-percent shooting from the field. The opening match would set the tone for the rest of her time in Florida.
Before injuring her hamstring in Washington’s sixth game against the New York Liberty — an injury that would force her to miss the remainder of the season — Powers was on a tear.
In an expanded role with the team — Powers started all six games she appeared in and averaged 30 minutes per night — the former Spartan slashed the following: 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals — all career highs. Powers took the opportunity of additional time on the court and ran with it, all but cementing her place as one of the top players in the WNBA through the opening six games.
In terms of shooting, Powers got to the free throw line an average of five times per game, making 83-percent of her foul shots. Inside the arc, Powers was averaged 7.2 attempts per game, knocking in 54-percent of her twos.
Both her free throw numbers and two-point measures were career highs, made all the more impressive considering Powers was doing so on increased volume. In other words, not only was she shooting the ball more, she improved the consistency of those shots.
A slight dip in three-point shooting, 35-percent, can again be explained by volume. Powers was attempting an average of 4.3 attempts per game — the most of her career.
Players who see a significant increase in playing time, as Powers did, often see a spike in turnovers. This, however, was not the case with Powers. In the bubble, Powers averaged 1.8 turnovers per game, compared to her career metrics of 1.5. Even in a larger role in which she was tasked with leading the scoring some nights, Powers’ mental sharpness characterizes her strengths as more than a pure scorer — although she can do that too.
Despite a promising season cut short due to injury, Powers still gave Washington fans plenty to cheer about. In a limited season, Powers flashed her premier skillset with a montage of highlight-reel plays.
Perhaps no game epitomized Powers’ prowess than the Mystics’ second game of the season against the Connecticut Sun.
Against the Sun, Powers played just under 33 minutes, scored 27 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and was 10-14 from the field, firing on 4-6 attempts from behind the arc.
A mere two days after she dropped 27 on the Sun, Powers scored her 1,000th career point against the Seattle Storm, illustrating her explosive ability on offense. In addition to an impressive career milestone, Powers notched north of twenty points three times in six matches.
A quick replay for everyone: AP knockin' down the long jumper to surpass 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ career points pic.twitter.com/uFIzgwWlN8— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) July 30, 2020
Through six games, Powers only trailed Myisha Hines-Allen — who was one of the best players in Florida in her own right —by 0.4 points (Hines-Allen averaged 16.7 points through the first six games, while Powers averaged 16.3).
Essentially tied for the team-lead in scoring, Powers’ absence was undoubtedly felt when her hamstring gave out, as the Mystics went on a torrid run in which the team lost 12 of 13 games.
Even though Powers had a breakout campaign, she must work to improve her three-ball. With the likes of Tina Charles, Natasha Cloud, Elena Delle Donne and LaToya Sanders returning to the fold next season, Powers will find herself open more often than she did in 2020. With the aforementioned players being the focus of opposition defenses, Powers will find open spaces, so adding a consistent three-point shot would only make her game that much more lethal.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, Powers is set to become an unrestricted free agent (unless she is cored), but she will hopefully re-sign. Powers, who won’t turn 27 until the middle of January (17), fully displayed what she can do in an expanded role.
In 2019, for example, Powers averaged just under 20 minutes a night, scoring 11.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals. She played in a total of 30 games, seven of which were starts.
Even with several star players returning to the Mystics in 2021, Powers is clearly a must-keep. Just imagine what Powers can do off the bench, or even in a starting role should someone miss time. With ample opportunity to recover from her hamstring injury, a fully fit Powers showed why she was the fifth overall pick back in 2016.
Powers has the ability to create her own shot, has a polished mid-range game and has incredible explosive speed, which she uses to send defenders the wrong way. Her quickness gives her a wider shooting range and allows Powers to push the pace, making her difficult to stop in transition. Powers can also score through contact and is an intelligent playmaker who can facilitate and get her teammates involved.
There is but one simple answer to the question of whether or not the Mystics should bring back Powers in the offseason: ABSOLUTELY.