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Where do the Mystics stand after LaToya Sanders’ retirement and Theresa Plaisance’s signing?

The Washington Mystics will remain in good position to contend — and they will have more salary to work with. It’s still going to be tough

Washington Mystics v Las Vegas Aces - Game Three
LaToya Sanders’ retirement hurts on the one hand, but the Mystics remain a very deep team.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Washington Mystics announced that LaToya Sanders retired from the WNBA but will remain with Monumental Sports & Entertainment in a general player development capacity. The move was a surprise, and given that they also signed Theresa Plaisance yesterday, it’s always a good thing to take a step back and see where the team is after such moves. Here are three takeaways on where the Mystics are at this point.

No. 1: The frontcourt rotation seems clearer.

The Mystics’ frontcourt currently has Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Myisha Hines-Allen, Erica McCall and Plaisance. It’s pretty clear that Delle Donne will get a starting role and major minutes while Hines-Allen and Charles will also get starter-level minutes. McCall and Plaisance have been reserves for their careers and will likely be in a similar role this season.

From this group, I’d say Hines-Allen comes out as the big winner here because she needs sufficient playing time after her breakout 2020 season. Sanders would have played significantly if she didn’t retire and that could limit Hines-Allen’s (and really, everyone else’s) time.

No. 2: Theresa Plaisance’s role is reportedly not guaranteed so it will not hurt Washington’s cap situation too much.

According to Rachel Gilligan of WInsidr, Plaisance signed a training camp contract with Washington.

This is not a surprise given that the Mystics are still hopeful on re-signing Emma Meesseman this season. But I do think Plaisance will at least make the opening day roster.

No. 3: The Mystics will have some more flexibility to re-sign Natasha Cloud and Emma Meesseman. But it still will be difficult

Now we come to the “fun” part: salary cap gymnastics!

According to Her Hoop Stats, the Mystics had $1,090,740 in committed salaries to nine players not on a training camp contract, including Sanders’ salary cap hit of $117,000.

I reached to the Mystics organization regarding Sanders’ cap hit this season where they did acknowledge that Sanders’ 2021 salary will not count against the cap. That is good news for the team’s salary situation for their remaining players this year. That said, the Mystics do not disclose salary figures themselves.

Knowing that Sanders won’t count against the cap, let’s go through a thought exercise here on how the Mystics could re-sign Cloud and Meesseman.

Before Sanders’ retirement, Washington had $248,260 in open cap space to sign two or three players. Now, that space goes up to $365,260 to sign three or four players. using Her Hoop Stats’ numbers of course. This gives Washington additional cap flexibility for 2021, including for their remaining key players.

Let’s assume Plaisance makes the Mystics’ opening day roster on a veteran minimum. She would earn a salary of $70,040 given that she spent over three years in the league. And if one of Sug Sutton, Jacki Gemelos or Stella Johnson makes the team, that’s another $58.710, pushing the Mystics’ roster to 11 players before re-signing Natasha Cloud and/or Emma Meesseman.

That would give Washington $236,510 in cap space to sign the two after adding Plaisance and one more player on a training camp contract.

Remember that Meesseman is going to miss at least half of this season because of Women’s EuroBasket and the Olympics for the Belgium women’s national basketball team. So she isn’t going to get a full salary. Cloud on the other hand, probably will.

A supermax contract is worth $221,450 but I don’t see the Mystics signing Cloud to that much money. Given that Alysha Clark is reportedly earning $183,000 and Tina Charles is earning $175,000 this season, it seems that Cloud will make a salary in that range as well. Let’s assume that Cloud signs a contract worth $180,000 in 2021. That would bring the Mystics roster to 12 players, the maximum allowed by the league.

While the Mystics would still have $56,510 in remaining cap space to sign Meesseman in this situation, they would have to cut one player to add her. Let’s assume that 50 percent of the WNBA season is played and Meesseman decides she wants to sign a rest-of-season contract.

Typically. these are pro-rated minimum contracts but they can be a prorated amount of the maximum as well. Given Meesseman’s years in the league, a full season salary at the minimum would be $70,040 (meaning a cap hit of $35,020 for half the season). But the Mystics could also use all of this $56,510 so they could sign her to a rest-of-season contract by paying her a pro-rated salary of $113,020 (since $56,510 is half of that).

Again, this figure could be more or less depending on Cloud’s contract and whether they sign any of their training camp contract players. And as many of our commenters have felt, Meesseman may simply not come back at all.

The Mystics are still working on an extension with Cloud, but as you can see from the aforementioned scenario we went over, there are a salary cap gymnastics to work out with. before an announcement comes out. As for Meesseman, she probably won’t make any commitment about this season until the Olympics are over in August.