The bulk of our May Mailbag answers will be out this Wednesday. Today, I’ll answer a few questions I received via email and Twitter direct messages about an old friend: Emma Meesseman. The now-Chicago Sky forward is going to make her debut as an opposing player against the Washington Mystics at 3 p.m. ET later today. Diamond has the rational preview. But you can call this the emotional preview. After all, Emma’s back in a WNBA uniform! Just not with the Mystics!
So let’s get to the main questions I received about her.
Why did the Mystics let Emma Meesseman go for nothing? She is one of the top players in the world, yet they couldn’t get a pick out of the Chicago Sky?!
As an unrestricted free agent who wasn’t cored last winter, Meesseman was free to sign with any team she wanted to.
It’s possible that the Mystics and Sky could have tried to figure out some sign-and-trade deal, but I find such a deal difficult at best. She is getting paid $185,000 to play for Chicago on a one-year deal. The Mystics just can’t afford to do that with Myisha Hines-Allen signing for $170,000 this season, and her contract goes through 2024.
How come the Sky values Meesseman more than the Mystics? After all, didn’t Emma play here for nearly a decade?
The Mystics always valued Meesseman very highly. Otherwise, they could have traded her to the Sky in 2017 for Elena Delle Donne. Or they could have just cut her loose after 2018 when she skipped the season for the last World Cup.
The thing is that the Sky have more to offer Meesseman at this moment, including the following:
- Meesseman is starting, and playing more than everyone else on Chicago (so far) — The Sky have played four games through today, with Meesseman starting and playing every game. She is averaging 12.5 points and 32.5 minutes per game. And though it’s a small sample size, she has played more minutes than anyone else. If Meesseman were still in Washington, she would have played less. And she may have been a backup to Delle Donne again, depending on whether Hines-Allen would have returned.
- Meesseman has close relationships with players and coaches on the Sky — Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley were longtime teammates of hers on UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia, pre-Ukraine invasion of course. Assistant coach Ann Wauters was on the Belgium women’s national basketball team the last several years with Meesseman. Fellow Belgian Julie Allemand was traded to Chicago from the Indiana Fever. And head coach James Wade was an assistant at UMMC.
- Let’s say that James Wade in particular seems to value her very, very highly — Björn Soenens (pronounced Soon-ens) of VRT in Belgium had a piece in early May on Meesseman and Wauters. Wade was on video saying that he believes Meesseman is a Top-3 player in the world (1:39-1:49 mark). Wade also claims to have the other two Top-3 players (who I assume would be Vandersloot and Parker). The video is mostly in Dutch but you can get an English auto-translation if you wish.
Ultimately, did the Mystics make the wrong decision to let Meesseman go?
No, No, and NO!
The Mystics couldn’t sit and wait to see whether Meesseman would come back on a year-to-year or month-to-month basis as many of you pointed out in the last two or three years. I’m happy that they are committed to Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen for the longer term, and the Mystics will be better for it.
Also, you have to consider that Shakira Austin is doing very well for Washington as well, though the Mystics couldn’t predict that they would definitely have her last January when free agency negotiations were going on.
The Sky’s staff and players offer Meesseman a real chance to reassert herself as an All-Star and as one of the WNBA’s best international players, if not the best outright. They are in a good position to repeat as WNBA champions despite their 2-2 record. Perhaps Chicago could be in a better place to accommodate Meesseman’s overseas schedule as well, or at least be more understanding.
At the end of the day, the Mystics get to move on with their talented younger core without the “will she or won’t she” issues Meesseman had since 2017 when the Belgian women’s national team began their global rise. And for the Sky, they get to take full advantage of her talents this season and try to make a run for one more championship. While I’m going to root for the Mystics to win today and the championship this season no matter what, Meesseman’s move to Chicago may very well be a win-win for both teams and their immediate needs. That’s what matters the most when it’s all said and done.