PG: Ivory Latta
SG: Matee Ajavon/Tayler Hill
SF: Monique Currie
PF: Crystal Langhorne/Emma Meesseman
C: Kia Vaughn/Michelle Snow/Jessica Moore/(Quanitra Hollingsworth to arrive later)
(plus two of Gs Shay Peddy, Nadirah McKenith and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, pending a final cut)
Significant gains: Ivory Latta, Kia Vaughn, Tayler Hill, Emma Meesseman (maybe), and Mike Thibault on the sidelines.
Significant losses: Trudi Lacey (well they ‘lost’ her and it was significant, right?), and over half the terrible roster from last year.
It was good news/bad news for the Mystics after last season’s excruciating crawl to 5-29 was finally over. The horrible news came quickly, when the lottery dropped them from the highest chance of landing Brittney Griner to #4 in what most saw as a three-player draft. But then Connecticut decided they’d had enough of solid seasons and consistently being pretty good under Mike Thibault, and gave him his walking papers. After two years of Trudi Lacey, resulting in a combined record of 11-57, Washington fans would’ve given their right arms for ‘solid’ or ‘pretty good’. So Thibault got the job, and a mild sense of optimism returned to the Mystics. The situation is similar to Tulsa’s last year – no one’s expecting miracles, and not even necessarily a playoff challenge. But they finally feel like someone competent’s in charge of the operation, and they’re moving in the right direction. It’s a positive step.
It’s hard to turn over an entire roster in one offseason – and not necessarily advisable, even when the team’s awful – but Thibault’s done what he could. He found an upgrade at point guard, signing Ivory Latta as a free agent to replace Jasmine Thomas (who was traded away). Latta will give them an extra scoring threat in the backcourt, and simply speed up the offense with her attacking mentality. The jump in the draft from the Thomas trade led to a subsequent trade with New York for Kia Vaughn, who deepens the post options. Then there was Tayler Hill, a guard taken with that 4th pick they ended up with in the lottery, who offers another backcourt scoring option and the potential to become a key piece. Finally, under the radar, 20 year-old Belgian post Emma Meesseman went as the 19th pick in the draft and could be a steal if she adapts to the WNBA and develops. She could have trouble with the physicality of the WNBA to begin with, but she’s skilled and long, with some range on her shot. And the Mystics have time to wait for her to grow.
Plus there was some decent talent on this roster already. Crystal Langhorne has become a legitimate All-WNBA level talent at power forward, a high-efficiency scorer that you can focus your offense around. Monique Currie is a true small forward, who can guard big wings and regularly bully her way to the free throw line. Her problem has always been focus and consistency, which will hopefully improve under a better coach and more structured system. The Monique Currie of 2010 would be a huge addition to this team. Shooting guard Matee Ajavon had a miserable season in 2012, constantly being jerked in and out of the lineup at Lacey’s whim and producing horrendously as a result. As with Currie, she could be a very useful piece if Thibault can find her a consistent role and rebuild her confidence. She’s always been a wildcard and she takes some poor shots, but after working with Renee Montgomery, Thibault has plenty of experience with that kind of player. He has yet another frustratingly inconsistent option on his roster in Michelle Snow, who’ll battle with Vaughn for minutes at center. He’ll be hoping that one way or another he can piece together a post rotation alongside Langhorne. After representing Turkey at EuroBasket Women, Quanitra Hollingsworth is also expected to arrive in July to add to the options.
There’s some useful talent here. There was some talent in Washington last year as well, but there’s a little more now, and a coach with a track record of knowing what he’s doing. They don’t need to win 20 games; they don’t even need to make the playoffs; they just need to restore some respectability to this franchise. But if they put the pieces together and the important players find a renewed interest in performing under their new leader, you never know what might happen.