The Washington Mystics are off to a 3-2 start in what many people predicted would be a down season for the defending champions. The Mystics have gotten massive contributions from players stepping into bigger roles due to the loss of four of their finals starters from 2019. With most of the (deserved) attention on Myisha Hines-Allen’s big first week, I wanted to shine some light on another Mystic’s player who has had a great start to the season: Aerial Powers.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Aerial Powers has been a good player since she stepped foot in the league back in 2016. In four years, Powers has only posted a PER below 15 one time, which was the season she struggled in Dallas. Powers took a big leap last year, becoming a key player for the Mystics after the loss of Kristi Toliver.
Fast forward to the 2020 wubble season and Powers is posting career numbers through five games. Despite a down match-up for her against the Aces Wednesday night, Powers is averaging 15.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in a career-high 29.7 minutes per game, along with emerging as a leader for this Mystic’s team.
Sometimes all a player needs to thrive is an opportunity and Powers is getting that down in Bradenton. Let’s take a look at how she has performed in her first five games as a full-time starter.
A quick look at Powers’ stats and you may just think her numbers are by virtue of more minutes played. Yes, she is playing more minutes and taking more shots, but what sticks out so far is her efficiency. A lot of players, especially scorers like Powers, will become less efficient as they take a higher volume of shots. That has not been the case for Powers, as she has posted a true shooting percentage of 63.9 so far this season. Take a look at her shot zones chart from WNBA.com:
Powers has been incredibly efficient in the paint. She hasn’t missed a shot in the restricted area yet and in the paint she’s above 61.5 percent. When you couple this with above league averages in the mid-range and beyond the arc, you get what is an extremely efficient shot chart.
It’s important to note that there will be regression in these numbers. For reference, Britney Griner shot 48.9 percent in the paint on 5.7 shots in 2019. I do think there is reason to believe Powers’ can keep that number between around 45 and 50 percent. Power’s is incredibly strong for her size and has tremendous body control. When you couple that with a quick first step and an attacking mindset, she should be able to keep getting to the rim and finishing at a high clip.
Powers has the ability to be a good three-level scorer. She has been a consistent 36 percent three-point shooter over her career and if she continues to finish at the rim, that is a tough cover for opposing teams. Defenders will have to decide whether to run her off the line and most likely get beat to the rim or let her shoot the three. On top of all that, Powers also has a good mid-range jumper in her bag if she gets past the first level and the defense rotates over and cuts off the rim.
Powers has been a fairly efficient player throughout her career but it is very encouraging to see her raise that efficiency as she is getting more minutes and taking more shots.
Along with being a dangerous scorer, Powers is simultaneously a strong defensive player and has continued to be in 2020. She has posted a defensive rating of 93.9 and is 12th in the league in defensive win shares, posting a 0.171 rating through five games.
Although defensive metrics can be flawed, the eye test backs up Powers’ defensive abilities. Her combination of strength, lateral quickness, and energy allow her to be a menace on that end of the floor. She can switch 1-3 with ease and has the strength to hold her own with the bigs if need be. The Mystics as a team have been a top five defense thus far and Powers is a big part of that.
Powers has also been fantastic on the boards, posting 5.6 rebounds per game and accounting for over 25 percent of her team’s defensive rebounds. 5.6 rebounds per game for a 5’7’ guard is a fairly high mark but it is not surprising when you watch her play. Her athletic ability coupled with her high motor allows her to rebound well from the guard position.
Intangibles don’t win games on their own but they certainly help and Powers has all the intangibles you want. There is one thing you can unequivocally say about Aerial Powers:she always gets after it.
Along with being a high energy player, Powers has become a leader for this team. Even watching the games you can see how vocal and animated she is at all times. Powers stepping up as a leader is huge for the Mystics. In a shortened season where they don’t have all their players and are playing every other day, having a player who brings the energy every single night can be the difference between a lethargic team or an energized one.
So, is this hot start sustainable for Powers? There is bound to be regression due simply to her posting some percentages that the best players in the league wouldn’t post but I think the answer is yes, it is sustainable. Powers has been improving every year since she entered the league, including a breakout 2019 season when she emerged as a spark plug for the championship team. All signs point to Powers being able to post career highs this season as she continues to play more minutes than she ever has before.
The Mystics have multiple players that can light it up on any given night and Powers is one of those. This could mean that there are games where she doesn’t score as much but she is always a threat. One thing is for sure: Powers is a key piece to the Mystic’s puzzle in 2020 and if they are serious contenders, she will be a big reason why.