Monumental Changes in Washington Might Make 2017 the Mystics' Year
It has been an unusual few months in Washington, DC. A torrent of changes—some steeped in controversy—bring fresh leadership to our nation’s capital and with it a series of brand new questions. Will Washington finally reform its losing ways and live up to its lofty aspirations and expectations? Or will DC’s dreams die in the usual fit of gridlock and frustration?
The Washington Mystics enter the 2017 WNBA season in win now mode. The team finished 13-21 in 2016, and the franchise has never even appeared in the WNBA Finals in its 19-year history, but a frenetic offseason has the Mystics suddenly thinking about a championship. While many in Washington are focused on “draining the swamp,” the new-look Mystics will look to drain enough threes to lead them to a deep playoff run.
The centerpiece of Washington’s offseason acquisitions is undoubtedly Elena Delle Donne. Adding a superstar in her prime would change the fortunes of any franchise, and EDD will be the featured attraction of the high powered Mystics offense. As the 2015 MVP and former WNBA scoring champ, Delle Donne needs little introduction, but she’s a stat sheet stuffer who will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. At 6 foot 5, EDD averaged 21.5 points and 7 rebounds per game in 2016, but perhaps most importantly did so while shooting almost 43 percent from beyond the arc.
But Elena Delle Donne won’t be the only promising new face taking the floor at the Verizon Center this summer. Coach Mike Thibault’s squad signed Kristi Toliver--herself a 42 percent shooter from distance last season--fresh off her title win with the Sparks and drafted Shatori Walker-Kimbrough with the 6th overall pick in this year’s draft. Toliver brings veteran leadership and championship experience to complement her potent shooting stroke, and SWK led the NCAA by shooting over 54 percent from deep in her junior year at Maryland.
Folks the Mystics might as well start working security at Washington political events because they’ve spent the offseason building a whole roster of snipers.Yet neither Delle Donne, Toliver, nor SWK will be the best shooter on this team. That distinction belongs to the 6-4 center Emma Meesseman, who led the league in three point shooting last season at nearly a 45 percent clip. After a breakout year in 2015, the sweet shooting Belgian’s stats didn’t waffle at all in 2016, and she enters 2017 prepared to stretch the floor for a Mystics team loaded with offensive weapons.
The theme developing here is clearly that of a team that will rely on three point shooting to compete for a title. Simply put, the Mystics will shoot to get hot and shoot to stay hot in 2017, stretching the floor with weapons and daring opponents to cheat to the perimeter. This style of play will actually have Washington emulating some NBA teams as they space the floor for their shooters and depend on ball movement and precise pacing to power their offense.
But even on nights where the three’s aren’t falling, Delle Donne and Meesseman still provide the Mystics with size and rebounding inside to help the Mystics play bully ball. This versatility on offense means this Washington basketball team won’t hit a Wall in the postseason, and the Mystics will pose a real threat to the Lynx and Sparks in the 2017 title chase. In other words: we’re going to start winning once again in Washington.
By: Evan Ribot