Yesterday, Candace Parker announced on Instagram that she will be signing with the Las Vegas Aces after spending the last two seasons with the Chicago Sky. In Chicago, Parker led the Sky to the 2021 WNBA championship and a WNBA semifinals appearance the following year. Sure, Parker probably had no intention to play for the Washington Mystics. But it certainly makes the landscape a bit more interesting nevertheless.
Parker’s move to Las Vegas would hurt the Mystics’ championship goals. To be clear, those goals are a stretch to begin with.
Parker averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game last season for Chicago, which featured the one of the league’s deepest starting lineups. Now that she is moving to the Aces, she would likely start at forward alongside center A’ja Wilson. Furthermore, the Aces are the defending WNBA champions. Not a bad landing sport for Parker, who is looking to get her third WNBA title.
The Mystics had the strongest defense in the WNBA last season but need to improve their offense. Parker was one of the top unrestricted free agents available at forward, like Breanna Stewart (whom the Mystics are courting), Nneka Ogwumike and Emma Meesseman. Now that Parker is going to a team that is already a contender anyway, I just can’t call that a good thing for Washington, even if the Mystics probably weren’t in line to sign her anyway.
The Sky’s possible downfall from Parker’s departure (and possibly more) is a good thing for Washington though.
If the Mystics were interested in reaching out to Parker, now they can focus their efforts on Stewart, who has yet to make her final decision. The move could also be the end of the Sky’s core. Courtney Vandersloot is the top unrestricted free agent who also plays guard. Meesseman is in the middle of her prime and would likely be courted by teams Stewart doesn’t sign with.
Even if Vandersloot and Meesseman both return to Chicago, the Sky isn’t as strong as they were before. If Vandersloot leaves to go to a team like the New York Liberty or Minnesota Lynx, teams that Stewart is also interested in, maybe it’s time for the Sky to move in a new direction.
Also, 2023 is a Women’s EuroBasket year. Barring a sudden collapse in qualifiers, Meesseman’s Belgium women’s national team is playing in it this summer. Any team hoping to sign Meesseman has to take that into account. Or perhaps Meesseman won’t come to the WNBA at all.
Either way, a weaker Sky team is a good thing for the Mystics’ championship hopes. I’m not a fan of “zero sum” takes, but a hierarchy is a hierarchy.
Any word on what the Mystics will do for the next week?
For now, all we can do is wait and see what Stewart will do. If she signs with Washington, expectations will be high for head coach Eric Thibault and the Mystics will be one of the top picks to win the championship this year like the Aces.
If Stewart doesn’t, perhaps General Manager Mike Thibault could consider bringing Meesseman back for the second half of the regular season.