Cored: Monique Currie
Unrestricted Free Agents: Alana Beard, Kelly Miller, DeMya Walker
Restricted Free Agents: Matee Ajavon, Nicky Anosike, Crystal Langhorne, Kerri Gardin
The decision already made by the Mystics in this free agency period is an interesting one. For so long Alana Beard was considered the cornerstone of the franchise, but after two years without seeing her set foot on a WNBA floor, Washington chose to core Monique Currie instead. Given all the injuries, it was an understandable choice. There’s still a chance that Beard returns, but she’s not even back playing in Europe at this stage. If someone takes a chance on her again, it seems like it might be a different franchise – you get the feeling that the Mystics are tired of paying her to sit around in street clothes, and both sides might benefit from a split.
Currie shouldn’t be a problem now that they’ve cored her – just a matter of how many years she signs for – but after finishing 6-28 last season they have some decisions to make with their restricted free agents. How hard do you try to keep the key pieces from a roster that only won six games? Crystal Langhorne is, far and away, their best player – she deserves a max deal and she’ll get it. The only way she leaves town is via a Pondexter/Dupree/Harding-style trade demand. Even this franchise isn’t dumb enough to let her walk. After that, what do you do with Ajavon and Anosike? Matee Ajavon had easily the best season of her WNBA career last year, stepping up in the absence of Beard and Currie to lead Washington’s perimeter scoring. But she still shot 39% from the field, 28% from distance, and turned the ball over at a high rate. I’m sure they’d like to keep her, considering they don’t have many other options at the 2, but they should try to avoid paying her max money. I’d wait and see if she could find any decent offers on the open market, then probably end up grudgingly matching an offer sheet. Anosike was desperately disappointing in her first year in Washington, but after giving up their 2012 first-round pick to acquire her (it turned out to be #3 overall) they’re unlikely to let her go. Her production has plummeted in the last couple of years, but posts have consistently been overpaid in the WNBA. She’ll probably end up playing for something approaching max money and it’ll probably be in Washington. However, if someone came to the Mystics with a decent offer for a sign-and-trade I’m sure they’d be happy to listen.
The remaining free agents should all be in the “we’ll keep you if you sign for cheap, otherwise have a nice life” category. They’ll be hoping that Jasmine Thomas can step up at point guard in 2012, making Kelly Miller less important, but given Thomas’s limitations they’d probably like to keep Miller around if possible. DeMya Walker and Kerri Gardin are mediocre backups, but may be re-signed if the Mystics can’t attract anyone better.
And attracting people is the central issue that could limit the Mystics in their free agent moves beyond their current roster. When you break up a winning team, dump the head coach and GM that turned your franchise around, then go 6-28, you aren’t exactly a prime destination for free agents. Even once they pay the players discussed above they’ve got cap room to work with, but it’s hard to see who might be added. Coco Miller might fancy returning to her former team in a package deal with her sister, but that would hardly set pulses racing. The only way they might add someone meaningful would be to overpay a player who couldn’t get the same money anywhere else, and with the cap space floating around the league this year it’s hard to see who that would be. Michelle Snow, maybe? Shay Murphy? Yeah, sorry Mystics fans, wish I could be more encouraging.