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The Mystics should make a run to be a Top 3 seed in the WNBA playoffs

Washington is fifth in the WNBA standings and could use a boost to improve their playoff position. They are in striking distance of the No. 3 seed which would be a much better position than No. 5.

WNBA: JUL 03 Washington Mystics at Connecticut Sun
The Washington Mystics will make the playoffs this season. But they can still improve on their seeding position.
Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics are heading into the homestretch of the 2022 WNBA season starting tomorrow when they begin a Western Conference road trip. It is also a chance for them to improve on their playoff seed. Currently, the Mystics are in fifth place with a 14-10 record.

Who’s on top of the Mystics right now?

Here are the teams, the Mystics’ head to head records against them and whether there are any matches left.

No. 1 Chicago Sky (16-6)

  • Head-to-Head record: 1-2
  • Remaining games: Aug. 5 on the road
  • How far behind is Washington from the Sky? 3 games

No. 2 Las Vegas Aces (15-7),

  • Head-to-Head record: 2-0
  • Remaining games: Aug. 2 at home
  • How far behind is Washington from the Aces? 2 games and they hold the tiebreaker

No.3 Seattle Storm (15-8)

  • Head-to-Head record: 0-1
  • Remaining games: July 30 and 31 at home
  • How far behind is Washington from the Storm? 1.5 games

No. 4 Connecticut Sun (14-8)

  • Head-to-Head record: 1-2
  • Remaining games: None
  • How far behind is Washington from the Sun? 2 games. They are one game behind in the standings but the Sun hold the tiebreaker.

Total record against Top-4 teams: 4-6 with four games remaining

Assuming the Top 5 teams in the standing do not change, the Mystics have a chance to finish with a winning record against the teams who lead them in the standings. Considering that they are 14-10 with 12 games remaining, this is a good position to be in.

What seed should the Mystics aim to finish in?

Washington should try to finish in the Top-3 for the regular season. This isn’t a stretch goal.

Considering that the Mystics have played nine games without franchise player Elena Delle Donne this season, I’m happy that the Mystics are in the upper tier of the playoff pack. They are four games ahead of the Atlanta Dream, who are the No. 6 seed (three games in the standings plus the tiebreaker). Barring a sudden rash of injuries or a drop off in play, Washington won’t fall out of the Top-5. But again, it’s more than mathematically possible for the Mystics to finish in the Top-3, which is much better than finishing at No. 5.

Why is the No. 5 seed bad for Washington?

In short, it puts the Mystics in a first round matchup against one of the Top 4 teams. Furthermore, if Washington is swept in the first round, they won’t host a single playoff game this season.

This scenario is because the playoff format has changed.

From 2016-21, the WNBA Playoffs were a combination of single elimination playoff games for lower seeds until the semifinals where the Top 2 seeds had a bye. Starting this year, all eight playoff teams will be playing in the first round which is a best-of-three series. The semifinals and finals will be best-of-five.

The first round of the playoffs will also be biased in favor of the higher seed to a point where the lower seed may not host a postseason game if it is eliminated. The first two games will be held by the higher seed and the third game, if needed, will be at the lower seeded.

To put this into context, if the regular season ended today, the Mystics would be the lower seed against the Sun in a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. If they lose the series 2-0, Washington fans wouldn’t be able to see them at ESA for the preseason. So right now,

Why should the Mystics aim to be No. 3 seed as opposed to No. 4?

This is primarily because the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup would be pitting two of these higher level teams that are above .500 against each other very quickly. Sure, the home court advantage of the No. 4 seed helps, but the No. 5 seed will likely be above .500.

Also, I’m thinking about future matchups and the Sky in particular, who are the league favorites and could very well be the No. 1 seed in the regular season. If that happens, the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 series will play against them in the semifinals. Washington hasn’t played very well against them, with or without Elena Delle Donne. I want to avoid that matchup until the Finals!

Which Top-4 team should be the Mystics’ primary priority to beat?

The Seattle Storm. The July 30 and 31 games are must wins for a tiebreaker, which Washington already has against the No. 2 seed Aces.

Will the Mystics be a Top-3 seed?

As long as Delle Donne can play more often than not, and if their offense (8th in the league) can catch up a bit to their defense, which ranks second, I think the Mystics will be a No. 3 seed when the playoffs start next month!