MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 5: Iziane Castro Marques (left) will try to bring some of that scoring punch she gave the Atlanta Dream in the 2011 WNBA playoffs to the Washington Mystics. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images.
(h/t to thewiz06 for posting this first as a fan shot)
The Washington Mystics have announced the signing of nine-year veteran guard Iziane Castro Marques and release of guard Natasha Lacy, who has gotten inconsistent minutes this season.
The Mystics are 4 games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs with 11 games left despite a 5-18 record and this signing would seem to reflect the offseason emphasis on making a playoff push by adding experience rather than the more recently reported emphasis on developing youth and rebuilding.
Castro Marques was an unrestricted free agent this past offseason after spending four seasons with the Atlanta Dream, where she was a major contributor to the team's efforts to make consecutive WNBA Finals appearances. Unable to find a new WNBA home via free agency, she was originally on the Brazilian national team roster for the Olympics before being dismissed for a violation of team rules after a poor performance against the U.S. in an exhibition.
Yet setting aside the Olympic incident, perhaps you can see what the Mystics might want from this move from a purely basketball standpoint.
As a team that struggles to score they're probably looking for Castro Marques to add some scoring: entering this past week, the Mystics were the least efficient offense in the Eastern Conference, scoring 92.33 points per 100 possessions. And although Castro Marques steadily declined as a 3-point shooter during her time in Atlanta, the Mystics are probably hoping that she can bring some help from beyond the arc as well: the Mystics have the lowest 3-point percentage in the Eastern Conference this season (30.6%) and Castro Marques got hot from long-range during the 2011 WNBA playoffs, as described just before this season when rumors connected her to the Storm.
The combination of Harding becoming a far more efficient distributor as the season went on and Castro Marques shooting a scorching 53.6% from beyond the arc during the playoffs helped immensely in getting the Dream to their second straight WNBA Finals...If she can give the Storm the type of quality minutes as a scorer that she gave the Dream in the playoffs, perhaps this could work out well for the Storm as they look to find points while Lauren Jackson is out for the 2012 Olympics. But she's also among the purest scorers in the league and if she isn't scoring efficiently, it's difficult to say what else she might contribute.
The problem is that the circumstances that Castro Marques thrived in with the 2011 Dream don't resemble those of the 2012 Mystics; a significant playoff strength for the 2011 Eastern Conference champions is a notable weakness for the 2012 Mystics: point guard play, as documented by Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post on Friday.
But let's just assume that Castro Marques picks up where she left off in the 2011 playoffs and is an immediate fit with the team - what exactly is the goal of the 5-18 Mystics signing a veteran wing for the remaining 11 games of this season?
After being down by as many as 28 points in the second half of a loss on Friday night to the third place Dream - who were without star Angel McCoughtry - the notion of leap frogging the Chicago Sky and New York Liberty for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs seems unreasonable; Castro Marques could be good for them, but good enough to make up that kind of gap? Doubtful. Struggling might be the charitable way to describe the fifth-place Sky recently, but can the Mystics even pass them?
In terms of fitting with the current personnel, the Mystics already have two wings who use up possessions at an above average rate yet neither pass nor score efficiently in Matee Ajavon and Monique Currie. Even more importantly, how does this signing fit into the Mystics' plan to develop youth and rebuild, which Carla Peay of the Washington Times reported the Mystics are doing just the other day?
But as Lacey points out, the team is rebuilding.
"We’re trying to develop our young players and trying to get better," she said. "The rebuilding process takes two or three years. It doesn’t happen overnight."
Natasha Lacy, released in order to accommodate Castro Marques, has struggled to find her niche during her two seasons in the league but is a player who might have potential to develop in the right circumstances. In contrast, Castro Marques is a declining veteran who could help them score, but has typically been an inefficient volume shooter and isn't exactly the type of player one would imagine as part of a rebuilding project.
None of that is to say that this is a bad move by the Mystics because it could, in theory, give them a boost. It's easy to understand where they might be coming from. But this is yet another somewhat odd move by a last place team that claimed to be in a rebuilding mode just the other day after the offseason emphasis on adding experience hasn't translated into wins for predictable reasons.