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Team Building Options For the 2013 Washington Mystics: Part 3 of 3

In this third and final part on possible future options for the Mystics to build their team, we will examine what other options the Mystics may consider executing in order to move in the right direction for 2013 and hopefully, beyond.

For the previous parts on the Mystics' team building options, see below:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Appendix on December 31, 2012

In the first two parts, we examined two scenarios where in Part 1, the Mystics would stay the course, pick the best player they can at the 4th spot and move forward with a youth movement, build with their 2nd and 3rd round picks, and ultimately their 2014 picks as well and beyond to build a winning team. In Part 2 the Mystics would trade the #4 pick and a combination of future 1st and 2nd round picks to pick up the rights to Skylar Diggins or Elena Delle Donne, in that order, while continuing to build a youth movement to the extent possible with their remaining picks and also with younger free agents.

The rest of these options basically are modifications of the proposals I put in Part 1 and Part 2 and we will examine these options, their pros, and their cons.

Option 3: Use the 4th pick in the draft to trade down and also acquire an additional player lower in the first round. Also, consider using some of the team’s players and use them to acquire additional lower first round picks for 2013.

Nate, (a/k/a the Boss or the Tenleytown Popeye’s fan) suggested that the Mystics should do this from his comment in Part 1. It is not uncommon that teams will trade down picks, in particular if they believe that they could get a particular player they covet later down in the draft than when they pick first, or if they believe that a certain talent pool is quite even over a number of picks and believe another team does have someone specific in mind at its particular pick. Going back to Part 2, the Rams did a version of this by trading their #2 down for #6 in the 2012 NFL Draft though they also got additional picks. But still, the Rams got a lot out of the RGIII deal, and for the Chicago Sky or Tulsa Shock in Part 2, they would raid the Mystics' top picks for at least two or three years by trading down.

The Pros of this Plan for the Mystics

  1. From a basketball-only standpoint, I agree with the Boss that this is the best move, especially when there's a youth movement with it. Should most of these lower picks the Mystics make be solid hits rather than misses, the Mystics could be the team that is laughing in everyone’s faces sooner rather than later.
  2. Trading down using the fourth as well as some players on the team now could add additional assets for the team in the long run, and the Mystics arguably need more younger assets than they need Skylar Diggins who like I said earlier, may very well be in a position like John Wall was in the first two years of his career. Well, she’ll be in a possibly worse position than he was to be honest.
  3. This draft class has been considered deep, even beyond the third pick and it has been perceived that there isn’t that much difference in talent for a good number of picks after the Big Three. The remaining first round players still will be rotation players at least here and the more, the better.
  4. Lastly, this is consistent with the classic Ted Leonsis rebuild where he would like to accumulate multiple 1st round draft picks especially. For the Wizards, there are four players from the 2010 rookie class that were 1st rounders in the 2010 NBA Draft: John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jordan Crawford.

The Cons of this Plan for the Mystics

  1. Again, do fans, especially Founding Fans, have the patience to go through more sucking, and not have a superstar player for at least one if not more years? Many do not.
  2. It is possible, if not likely, that this team will be perceived by some of the remaining fans as "throwing in the towel" or giving up on the team, even though the basketball-only side part makes sense. Sure, most of the time, ownership shouldn't depend on public perception to build its team, but when the team is in a desperate situation, I don't know if doing another move that will be unpopular (aside from trading Langhorne for another star) would be something that ownership should do without expecting more anger and a further diminishing of the fanbase.
  3. Like I wrote in Part 2, the non Big Three picks don’t have hype for a reason. What if these picks don’t become starter caliber players on good teams, let alone DC’s?
  4. Will any other teams want to move up to the #4 pick? Ties with the last point that there’s no hype at #4 for a reason. If the Mystics can't use this pick to trade down, and can't use it and other picks to trade up, they may be forced to do Option 1. Hopefully the fans are aware that the team is trying to get in the conversation for these moves or it would look like the team decided to just stay the course without a fight. There needs to be some transparency on that front, though obviously exact details need to be confidential while the wheeling and dealing takes place.
  5. Who cares if Alyssa Thomas is up for the 2014 Draft, especially if the WNBA team closest to her college is relocated to the Bay, or is folded by then? It’s not that the Mystics really intend on folding or selling it to another owner for relocation. It’s the perception that is there, and perception is reality. If this team was heading in the right direction on the court over the past five years and was in danger of folding, more folks may renew to keep the team alive. But in this case, that's likely not going to happen because it was clear that the team was meddling, but to be fair, the team did terminate the GM who was responsible for the mess after this past season was over, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they learned their lesson and are trying to right the ship.

Option 4: Mystics sign higher profile free agents who have played primarily in Europe only in recent years, and keep the 4th pick and pick the best player available.

On the Mystics’ facebook page, some folks have suggested that they attempt to sign Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan who are former WNBA players that have decided to just play only in Europe. There are also perhaps some other WNBA-level, maybe even close to starting level players who are playing only on their side of the ocean. I can’t really think of all the names who may or may not be available here so let me explore this:

The Pros of this plan for the Mystics

  1. At least for the players I mentioned above, they would make an impact on this team right away, and it should improve the team's win and loss record.
  2. Crystal Langhorne and Mo Currie and Matee Ajavon would be able to stay. This keeps the regionalist Mystics fans happy especially with the former two still in Monumental Red.
  3. At best it could help the Mystics get a playoff run sooner than all the other options I mentioned thus far.

The Cons of this plan for the Mystics

  1. This is essentially the Brian Agler plan at best, or the Trudi Lacey plan on steroids at worst. If the Mystics did sign Nolan AND Ford, that either means Bill Laimbeer got hired (that’s a good thing) AND they both want to play in the WNBA again (also good, at least for us Americans). But this plan goes against building with youth even more than the RGIII plan in Part 2.
  2. Will Nolan and Ford even want to play in the WNBA again, let alone the worst team in the league? I believe Nolan is still getting franchise tagged every year by the Shock so she’d have to sign there before coming here and only by trade if this is the case.
  3. Well, with Ford’s case, she’d be signing solely as a free agent, and I didn’t put up this as an option which is to sign higher profile free agents. I don't know if I'd call her a higher profile free agent now, but the Mystics probably isn't a team that can attract any high profile free agents while keeping the 4th pick.
  4. Lastly here, the Mystics were looking for a fresh start, and with Brittney, Skylar, or Elena leading the way with a team that will likely be comprised of younger players and at least Crystal Langhorne. Instead, in this situation while Langhorne would and the 4th pick would most likely stay, the Mystics would be an older team than desired for a rebuilding squad, just like last year and this may very well be a band-aid to win games now at the expense of some younger players, including Natalie Novosel who would be a second year player and had to deal with this circus. I won't add Jasmine to this list because she was getting her fair shot.
  5. And do the Mystics want to make the playoffs? Or do they want to build a perennial championship contender? Those aren't mutually exclusive, but they mean different things.

Option 5: Attempt to trade the 4th pick plus possible future first round picks for other young rising stars in the WNBA, like Angel McCoughtry and Liz Cambage for example.

In this situation it is basically option 2 but the Mystics get out of the 2013 Draft’s first round and attempt to improve the team by adding a high impact younger star, but she wouldn’t be a rookie obviously. Angel and Liz are examples of players who may be on the market at the right price. Angel would be on the market because of issues with management, and Liz is perceived as a player who doesn’t want to play on her team. This may be a backup plan in case the Mystics try option 2 but fail because those picks would not be given under any circumstances.

The Pros of this plan for the Mystics:

  1. Angel and Liz specifically would sell tickets and put a face of the league on for DC. Kind of obvious, right?
  2. This should also fill a sore need for the Mystics and will be able to do so hopefully for awhile. Angel provides perimeter scoring, defense, and clean up boards, while Liz provides size and a developing low post game which may be as good as anyone’s with the right development.

The Cons of this plan for the Mystics:

  1. For a very young star like Cambage, is she really the real deal? Aside from a dunk and a first half performance where she dominated Team USA in the Olympics, but then got totally shut down?
  2. Again, wouldn't any team with a star to trade demand Langhorne? For someone like Angel, it is possible that she could carry the Mystics to the playoffs by herself even. That is good, but the bad part is that the Dream would likely demand Langhorne, the 4th and 13th picks this year, and the first round pick for next year as a framework for a deal.
  3. Would the amount of first round picks demanded for a younger star be similar to, if not more than the amount of picks demanded for the rights to Skylar or Elena? If so, I'd get the rookie in all circumstances if I was going to do such a deal.

Conclusion

So here are some frameworks to build the Mystics considering their current situation which is at best, challenging, and at worst, franchise threatening. While any one option I have mentioned here certainly has its positives, there are also negatives, which are very important to consider considering that the fanbase is bailing on the team.

The general point here is that in most rebuilds, a youth movement and building with multiple draft picks in multiple years is the best way to go, and I’d say that applies for the Mystics too. But unfortunately, past mistakes and dwindling fans have thinned the patience of the team's remaining fans, and the team may need to make a move fast, and it must be big.

Some of you may be thinking that I’m putting this up too early because there is no GM right now. Yes, the most important job for the Mystics right now is to find the right General Manager because that person isn’t even there yet. But the new GM candidates, whoever they are must think about the points I put up above and seriously weigh whether the long term stay the course rebuild is worth losing fans in the short term but build back in the long term, or make the move for a star player now to gain back support in the short term, but perhaps risk the long term.

Whenever the new GM comes in, he or she needs to take a page out of the book of former brother team head coach Bruce Boudreau, who gave a notable intermission speech. The GM also needs to do exactly what Coach Boudreau demanded from his players (yes, there is foul language):

Washington Caps Boudreau Motivational Speech (via dctags21 on YouTube)

Regardless of which GM ends up coming here, the GM, the coaches, the returning players, the new players, and even the owners all have to know that their work is cut out for them and like Coach Boudreau said, outwork the other guys because the Mystics can't feel sorry for themselves, no matter how bad things are right now and they are. Sure, teams do feel sorry for the Mystics because the lotto didn't fall their way, but next season, they certainly won't feel that way. When everyone on this team, not just the players and coaches, but also the front office and ownership starts outworking the competition, good things will happen sooner rather than later.

This will be a very important offseason here in the nation’s capital and it will be the most important offseason this team has ever had. Let us all hope that this team won’t be disbanding or relocating this season, next season, or ever in light of this most recent string of bad luck and let us all hope that the Mystics can continue to steer in the right direction.

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