What Has Atkins Brought To The Mystics
By Jasmine Brown
Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins averages 11.6 points a game, helped the Mystics to a win over the Chicago Sky with a team high of 25 points, and scored 14 points in an impressive early season win over the Minnesota Lynx. But if Atkins was not drafted to the Mystics, would we be seeing a different kind of team? The answer is yes. Of course, Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver are going to get their points in the game, but Atkins has been a key a component for why the team is in third place in the league. The question remains though: Why is Atkins not talked about as much despite her early career stats? Did the likes of A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Mitchell and Diamond Deshields hinder that process? Maybe.
Let’s take it back to draft night, where this was a class that was heavily talented. Players such as Wilson, Mitchell and Victoria Vivians were the main headlines of the draft. Atkins was not in the talks at all. But how come? She was the main reason alongside Brooke McCarty why Texas reached the Sweet Sixteen all four years. She led the Longhorns in scoring with 14.9 points per game, good for 11th in the Big 12, and was No. 2 in the Big 12 in steals.
At No. 7, Atkins was selected to the Washington Mystics. Now most people did not have Atkins in the forefront of their minds, not even most Mystics fans. There were more people who may have been, to them, a better pick for Washington or deserved to be drafted at a higher spot.
Mike Thibault expressed why Atkins was drafted to the nation’s capital.
“Our goal was to find a wing player that could be a scorer and a defender,” Thibault said. “She’s got the size (5-11) to get after people. ... I think that her basketball I.Q. and energy level is off the charts, and I think that she proved over the course of her time at Texas that she is a very dynamic and efficient player. She’s a good passer and proved her efficiency in college.”
Some fans may have felt that she should not have been drafted that high, but should we even question Thibault? This is the guy who was on the staff when Michael Jordan was drafted. Not to mention he most recently achieved the status of having the most wins in WNBA history with 301. It’s pretty obvious he knows what he’s doing and with how this season is going, it shows even more.
Atkins rose all the way up to starter status and has been a great addition for the team, but suffered a slight setback that had me asking how much could a starting rookie guard out affect this team?
Atkins suffered a concussion in their win against the Connecticut Sun. She missed two games, but those two games showed how valuable she was to the team. The Mystics played an incredible game against the New York Liberty, which ended in a game-winning 3 by Elena Delle Donne. However, it took until the last second to win the game. They then ended up losing a tough game against the Phoenix Mercury, a game that was very much winnable. If Atkins was in the game, would those two games have been different? Absolutely. Atkins brings a fearless game to the table and is certainly not afraid to show you that’s she not afraid to score over you. She has been up against the best of the best and has held her own. Her maturity on the court makes it seem as though she’s been a veteran for quite some time.
Even at this point of the season, however, it seems as though she’s still underrated. That might end soon if she keeps this season up, but she needs to be in talks of being one of the best rookies in the league right now. One thing is for sure: there is always that one dark horse player that is not the center of attention but ends up proving to be a great player. While Ariel Atkins fits that mold, this is certainly nothing new.