PG: Ivory Latta/Bria Hartley
SG: Kara Lawson/Tayler Hill/Natasha Cloud
SF: Armintie Herrington/Tierra Ruffin-Pratt
PF: Emma Meesseman/Ally Malott/Kayla Thornton
C: Kia Vaughn/Stefanie Dolson
Significant additions: Herrington, maybe Cloud, Hill or Malott if they’re lucky.
Significant losses: Monique Currie, Tianna Hawkins.
Last but decidedly not least in the East, the little team that could. Since Mike Thibault arrived in Washington before the 2013 season, the Mystics have been finding ways to win games without any real stars. They play as a collective unit, they find the right matchups on any given night, and they claw out enough wins to hang around in the playoff picture. The roster still looks short of the elite talent that’s typically necessary to challenge for a championship, but there’s no reason to expect them to lose that competitive edge that we’ve consistently seen for the last couple of years.
They re-signed Ivory Latta, who provides a lot of their energy from the point guard spot and can explode for points in a hurry. Bria Hartley had a promising rookie season either alongside Latta or backing her up. Kara Lawson is a veteran presence and can still light it up from outside if she can stay healthy. They’ll also be hoping that Tayler Hill, who was a disappointment as a rookie after being taken #4 overall in 2013, can bounce back after missing most of last season due to pregnancy. Considering how ineffective she was even before the baby it might be a vain hope, but anything she can offer would be a bonus. Thibault has also had plenty of positive things to say about rookie wing Natasha Cloud.
The small forward spot is where we’ll see the most transition for the Mystics, after Monique Currie left in free agency. Armintie Herrington was signed to help fill the gap, and her defensive energy will fit right in (although her complete lack of a jump shot will be as much of an issue as it’s always been). Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is also still around, after learning from Currie for a couple of seasons. They might miss the one or two games a month where Currie would break out and remind everyone what she was capable of, but otherwise the changeover should be fairly smooth.
The paint prospects for the Mystics look very similar to last year – the youth and energy of Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson, the veteran nous of Kia Vaughn, and piecing together the remainder of the minutes from wherever else they can find them. Tianna Hawkins is pregnant and will presumably miss the whole season, which currently leaves rookies Ally Malott and Kayla Thornton filling out the backups. So they don’t look deep at all, and the reliance on Meesseman to take a step forward may be even greater than last year. She has skills and some range, and surprising strength on her thin frame, but the consistency wasn’t there last year from game to game. She’s only just turned 23, so there’s still plenty of time for development, and she might be Washington’s best chance to develop someone who moves somewhere close to that ‘star’ category. Based on the last couple of years, the Mystics look unlikely to drop far enough to draft one. Vaughn and Dolson were a solid center combo last season, and provide the beef alongside Meesseman’s more finesse-based game.
It’s hard to find anything too interesting to say about the Mystics. They haven’t made any major changes, there’s been no drama around the franchise, and they don’t have the star attractions of various other teams. But they’ll play team basketball, they’ll be smart, and quick, and well coached. Thibault will offer thoroughly entertaining and honest halftime interviews. And by the end of the season they’ll almost certainly be around .500 and right amongst the playoff contenders in the East. It might not be that exciting, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the Mystics were before Thibault arrived.