Mystics Face Free Agency Crossroads


Each week over the first three months of the offseason, we will look at what each team has in store for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target for them to bring in. This series will start in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then go in order of elimination when it comes to playoff teams. We have looked at the Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever. Today we round out the non-playoff teams with the Washington Mystics.

Injuries are a part of every season in every sport. Still, the amount to which the Mystics’ season was derailed by ailments is astounding. Elena Delle Donne was limited to just three games this season. Myisha Hines-Allen, one of the breakout players of the bubble, missed 14 games. Now, the Mystics go into the offseason with potential across the board for a drastic roster change.

Pending Free Agents

There are few (if any) bigger names on the free agent market than Tina Charles. After missing the 2020 season, the former MVP returned to the league in full force. In her first season in Washington, Charles averaged a career high 23.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game on shooting splits of .449/.365/.820. Even with the reigning MVP on the market, Charles will be one of the top targets as an unrestricted free agent.

Joining her as unrestricted free agents are Leilani Mitchell, Theresa Plaisance, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Shavonte Zellous. Myisha Hines-Allen is a restricted free agent and Megan Gustafson is on the reserved list. Emma Meeseman is another unrestricted free agent who played her last minutes in the league before the pandemic for the Washington Mystics. With potentially three of their best six players (when healthy) hitting the open market, the Mystics face a crossroads.

The Plan Forward

The plan forward has to start with what Tina Charles decides to do. She has expressed that the only thing that matters to her at this point is winning a ring. Given the current state of Elena Delle Donne’s physical condition, staying in Washington does not seem likely to give Charles the best chance to do that. If she were to choose to go somewhere else in free agency, the Mystics immediately shift where they stand in the league.

Furthermore, the team has just around $60k in cap space, according to HerHoopStats. With around $750k committed to Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins and Alysha Clark, the team does not have much room to work with. They can waive Sydney Weise and Erica McCall to create nearly $160k, but that is unlikely enough to entice Charles to stay. If the assumption is that Meeseman and Charles are not back, and Delle Donne may not be able to ever truly to return to full health, decisions get even cloudier.

Parting Thoughts

It seems to be time for the Washington Mystics to pivot into the youth and move on from the expensive veterans. Hoping for a Delle Donne return to form seems like a pipedream. Bringing back Leilani Mitchell, who will turn 37 within the first month of next season, feels foolhardy. Therefore, the biggest priority should be trying to trade with an eye toward the future and locking in Myisha Hines-Allen.

Hines-Allen’s production dipped last season due in large part to injuries and the overall usage of Charles. In her breakout bubble season she averaged 17.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game on shooting splits of .510/.426/.828.  Bringing her back when she will turn 26 as the season begins next season feels like the most logical bridge to the next good Mystics team. There is just no certainty that a good team takes the court next season. If any coach is able to get that out of them it is Mike Thibault, but this will be a dire challenge.

About Corey Rausch

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