In case you haven’t heard, it’s a #Mystics25 year. The Washington Mystics will be ringing in their 25th WNBA season, and, much like any quarter-century anniversary, they’re hoping to celebrate with some silver.
To honor the special occasion, here are 25 numbers and predictions to preview what will assuredly be a memorable Mystics season.
1. 2019, 28.8
These numbers represent the last year Elena Delle Donne played over 30 minutes per game (MPG)*, and the amount of minutes per game Alysha Clark played in her last full season (2020), respectively. If this team is to succeed this year, it’s going to need its former MVP and its prized free agent signing to play large roles. EDD is unlikely to play more than 10-15 MPG to start the season after coming off a serious back injury, but her presence alone will provide all the difference in the world. Clark will likely be on a minutes restriction, too, as she recovers from a Lisfranc injury, but she will likely pick up more minutes as the season progresses. As these two go, so, too, will this team.
*To be fair, in the championship season of 2019, EDD did play 29.1 MPG, according to Basketball Reference.
This is how many points the bench scored last season, third worst in the league. They averaged the third fewest MPG, too, at just 11, but Coach Thibault has talked all offseason about this team’s depth. If they are to succeed, how Thibault manages the bench will be key. Given the health and minutes restrictions to EDD and Clark, one should expect the bench minutes to go up (more on the points later).
This is point guard Natasha Cloud’s three-point percentage last year, according to Pivot Analysis. This comes with 95 attempts from the field, averaging 1.22 three-pointers made per 40 minutes; all of that averages to just under one made three-pointer per game. While not especially bad (minus the percentage), Cloud is going to need to step up her three-point shooting, even with less attempts, and she likely will. The team’s greater size this season should create more open opportunities for Cloud behind the arc.
This was the Mystics’ free throw percentage last season, eight in the league (or fourth-worst, for all you glass-half-empty folk). This number is surely to improve just from the new “additions” to the team. Even with Elizabeth Williams’ career free-throw percentage of 65.5 percent (and an even ghastlier 50.1 percent last season), having EDD’s career 93.9 percent (97.3 percent in the championship season) and Tianna Hawkins’ career 87 percent (91 percent last season with the Dream) will immediately provide a boost.
This was the team’s defensive rating last year, second-worst in the league ahead of only the six-win Indiana Fever. Defense has been a focal point all offseason, as both Thibault and his players have alluded to multiple times. The additions this team has made will hope to prove fruitful, as there isn’t really anywhere to go but up.
The Mystics’ total rebounds per game (RPG) last season, second-worst in the league. (Sensing a theme?) The Mystics added a ton of size in the offseason, and having EDD’s 6’5” frame back in the paint will surely help, too. Look for their rebounding totals to improve, especially as Thibault finds the right formula for keeping some height on the floor throughout the game.
7. 29, 36.8
You get a twofer here as well, as both of these represent opponents’ rebounding stats: defensive rebounds allowed per game and total rebounds allowed per game, respectively. If this team is going to win, they will need these numbers to improve, as they both ranked second-worst in the league last season.
I promise I’m not such a downer. This is the turnovers per game last season, good for third in the league (that’s good!). They had a turnover percentage of 16 percent, fourth best in the league (also good!). Limiting turnovers kept the Mystics in many games last season, so it will be imperative for them to do the same this season. With Rui Machida backing up Cloud, look for the Mystics to hold steady here, if not improve.
This was the opponent’s effective field goal percentage last season, which accounts for the three-pointer being worth more than the two-pointer. It was tied for worst in the league. It’s obvious to say this needs to improve, and the hope is the return of Clark, along with Atkins, who was second team WNBA All-Defensive Team last year, will be able to clamp down and lower this number considerably.
Opponents last season scored 29.7 points per game (PPG) in the paint against the Mystics, worst in the league. That should come as no surprise, based on the team’s roster at the end of last season—the average height per player on the team was six feet. While this may not seem particularly short, remember: EDD was out, leaving the team with only Megan Gustafson and the defensively-challenged Tina Charles as the “bigs.” The team’s focus on size this offseason should help bring this number down.
This is the percentage of Mystics’ points that were two-pointers last season, second worst in the league. This team will need to be less three-point-reliant, if indeed winning is the goal this season.
12. 60.4, 39.6
This one’s all about the defense—they were second-best at defending two-pointers last season, with a 60.4 percent field goals against percentage, but were second-worst at defending the three, with a 39.6 percent field goals against percentage. If this team can be stronger defensively on the perimeter, without sacrificing its incredible defense against the midrange and paint game, they might really have something cooking.
What are numbers if we aren’t talking betting? According to FanDuel, the Mystics have the seventh-best betting odds to win the championship this season. This hasn’t taken into account the draft (why can’t they update these more?), but that number could be one of the more widely changed ones as the season goes on.
14. Mystics make the playoffs
Let’s start out with an easy one. With a healthy EDD and Clark, this team is already a playoff contender, given they missed out on the playoffs last season only due to losing the tiebreaker with the New York Liberty. Even if the Mystics aren’t fully healthy, a continually improving Atkins, with Cloud, Hawkins, promising rookie Shakira Austin, and the rest of the squad should make this my most likely (and probably only) prediction to come true.
15. Atkins takes another step and makes first team WNBA All-Defensive Team
There’s really no reason this cannot happen, as Atkins has continually improved, especially defensively, each year she’s been in the league. Entering year five, newly minted WNBA “vet” Atkins will be one to watch this season, likely making it into the highest echelon of WNBA defensive talent.
16. Rookie Shakira Austin averages eight points and seven rebounds her first season, while increasing her minutes to nearly 18 MPG by season’s end
Austin was drafted to play defense, but let’s not forget she can score, too. During her career at Ole Miss, she averaged over 13 points and 8.5 boards, according to ESPN.com, so she should not be forgotten on the offensive end. Look for Thibault to stress defense early on, but hope her offensive game grows as the season progresses to deepen the bench.
17. Mystics have a top three bench in terms of points/game this season
Speaking of the bench—this bench will be good, if not very good, in comparison to last year’s. As mentioned, this team’s focus is depth, depth, depth coming into the year, and I believe it will pay dividends, as the bench becomes its steadying presence, and a top tier bench across the league.
18. Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen both make the All-Star team
This one might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m sticking by it. The aforementioned Atkins can and (I believe) will play to this level, but MHA is a bit of a mystery. After balling out to the tune of 17 PPG in the Wubble, MHA averaged over four points less last season, only scoring 12.9 PPG, according to Basketball Reference. I believe a lot of that has to do with injuries, and having to be a major scoring focal point, which put a lot of pressure on her to be the second scorer behind Charles. This year, with other members helping to take some pressure off, MHA can be herself again and thrive, and, with a little bit of health luck, I think she will become an all-star.
19. The team wins 20 games this season and clinches the fifth seed in the postseason
This seems about right, as a disjointed and gravely shallow team last season still won 12 games. This season, I think the pieces come together and they soar, nearly doubling their win total from last season, and entrench themselves firmly in the playoff picture.
20. EDD plays in 25 games this season
This one is tough to predict, as back injuries are notoriously tricky. Delle Donne has stated numerous times that she feels renewed and healthier than she’s been in years, and I’ve been negative enough in the article already, so let’s take the positive. She’ll miss some games for rest and whatnot, but she’ll play most of the season for the first time since 2019.
21. Clark plays in 30 games this season
No, I do not think it’ll be as clean cut as 25 and 30 games for these two (see above), but let’s just keep it easy. Clark is back, but will be out for the opener. Given she isn’t quite fully healthy just yet, it’s reasonable she’ll miss some games. I’d still expect her to play in most of them, and what a defensive force she’s going to be for this team! What more could we ask for?
22. Elizabeth Williams averages more than 1.5 blocks per game
This is less of a prediction and more of a knowing Williams will likely be up to her usual tricks. She averaged 1.75 blocks per game in her six seasons in Atlanta, according to Basketball Reference, so this one, pending health, should be an easy win.
23. Rui Machida will average over three assists per game off the bench
Given Machida’s prowess for finding her teammates—something she mentioned in her introductory press conference—this one feels pretty secure, if she’s able to earn the minutes. Given that she’s the only other point guard on the team, and really the only one that can be trusted to bring the ball up consistently outside of Cloud (okay maybe Atkins too, but I’ve gushed over her enough), this seems like a safe bet.
24. Cloud will finish top five in steals
Cloud has been a sneaky source of steals her whole career and continues to improve. As the scoring load can be lifted from her shoulders, she should be able to return to being the “defensive-minded player” she loves to be, as mentioned at media day. This means Cloud could be an absolute terror on defense, and the league should take note.
25. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching this team this season
Okay, maybe a cop-out, but c’mon! The article is long enough. Enjoy what will hopefully be a fully healthy squad and some really good games all summer!
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA.com.