The 2014 WNBA Season is on the horizon, Pre-Season play starts this week and the regular season tips off on May 16. The Washington Mystics have been very busy since last year’s first round exit from the Playoffs. The Mystics fell to the Atlanta Dream in a three game series to the tune of 2-1. They finished the regular season at 17-17, while .500 may not seem like a huge accomplishment from afar, it was a drastic improvement from the 2012 season. This year’s Mystics will have a different look, they plan to build on last season’s success.
They reached the playoffs as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, a year after finishing 5-29. Mike Thibault definitely earned the Coach of the Year award, it was also the first time Washington had reached the Playoffs since 2010. A quick look at the franchise’s history and the 2010 team stands above the rest, that unit went 22-12. Thibault turned around a team that had won just 11 games in two seasons(2011,2012), having a veteran laden roster definitely didn’t hurt. Ivory Latta led the way, Washington’s floor general averaged 14 points, 4.4 assists, and 2 rebounds during the regular season. Monique Currie and Crystal Langhorne led the charge in the front court, averaging 10 points/5 rebounds and 12 points/7rebounds respectively. Only three players on the team averaged double figures in scoring, there were contributions off the bench but it was certainly an area that could be addressed.
As a team, the Mystics were seventh in the league in scoring (75.5 points a game) and sixth in points allowed. Those stats are a bit misleading as the point differential is very low, while they scored 75.5 points a game they gave up 75.4 points a game. Which left them with little room for error, making their run to the postseason last year even more impressive. The Mystics did rebound the ball fairly well and didn’t have in issue sharing the ball, but going back to the last point regarding their room for error, both are areas in which they can improve. The lack of firepower is abundantly clear when looking at the team shooting stats. Shooting 34% from beyond the arc isn’t a bad number, it’s definitely respectable. What isn’t acceptable is the 41% from the floor, many consider women to be better shooters than men, which makes that number even worse. The good news is that the Mystics made the playoffs, they rose from the cellar of the league to respectability, now it’s time for the next step.
The Mystics could have sat back proud of last season’s success, could have stood pat while other teams got better. Instead, the Mystics were one of those “other” teams that got better in the offseason. It started in mid-March with the acquisition of Kara Lawson, which came via a three-team deal. Washington traded Matee Ajavon and the 18th overall in the 2014 draft to Atlanta for Alex Bentley and the 32nd pick in the 2014 draft. The Mystics then traded Bentley to the Connecticut Sun for Lawson. She was the 5th overall pick in the 2003 draft, a WNBA Champion and a battle tested veteran who’s logged many postseason minutes. A Virginia native, Lawson is a proven scorer and provides veteran leadership to a team trying to get to the next level. A great addition by the Mystics that shouldn’t take long to pay dividends.
That was before the draft, Washington made even more noise during the draft. With the 6th overall pick the Mystics selected Stefanie Dolson from the University of Connecticut. She never averaged less than 10 rebounds in her collegiate career, her prowess on the boards and on the block will certainly help. She’s also a great screen setter, that is a wonderful attribute for a team that struggles with shooting. Who wouldn’t want more space? Washington selected Kody Burke with their 32nd pick in the draft. She scored in double figures in 26 of NC State’s 33 games this season, even as a forward she has the ability to step out and stretch the floor(32% from three). There would be more moves, however.
In what may have been an unpopular move, the Mystics traded 2008 1st Round pick (6th overall) Crystal Langhorne to the Seattle Storm. Which means the front office definitely had a plan heading into this offseason, teams don’t trade key players without having a plan. In exchange for Langhorne, they received the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft in Tianna Hawkins(also a former Terrapin) and the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft in Bria Hartley(Uconn). Hawkins only averaged nine minutes a game as a rookie for the Storm, that average should go up exponentially this season as a member of the Mystics. Hawkins was a very talented forward during her collegiate career, even leading the NCAA in field goal percentage at 62.3%. Hartley played both guard spots during her time with the Huskies, while she can run a team in spurts, she’s far better as a scorer. Both of these young women should be able to help the Mystics this season.
Washington has made an effort to address the issues that ended last season prematurely. It won’t happen overnight, but Ivory Latta & Monique Currie will definitely have more firepower alongside them this season. Fans will get their first look at the new pieces next week when preseason tips off. The first preseason game for the Mystics is Monday at noon against the Indiana Fever, while it’s on the road it should be a good chance to see how the new additions fit with the holdovers from last year’s team. The first home preseason game is Wednesday at 11:30 am, they will be hosting those same Indiana Fever at the Verizon Center.
The Mystics certainly have a chance to build upon last season’s success, do you think they made the right moves this offseason? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Photos taken from monumentalnetwork.com and wnba.com