The Washington Mystics' free agency strategy Part 2 of 2: Which players from other teams should they go after?

Lindsey Harding is a former Mystics point guard, and she's one of the top unrestricted free agents that Mike Thibault may be thinking about acquiring. - Kevin C. Cox

In this part, we will take a look at the list of 2013 restricted and unrestricted free agents who did not play on the 2012 Mystics team and focus on some of specific players the Mystics may try to acquire in order to rebuild their team.

Before we go on:

Let me put out a disclaimer, which comes almost word for word from Part 2 of "The Manifesto." There may be some folks I mention who aren't realistic targets for the team because they're "too good" for them, but because they're free agents, the Mystics should take a look at them anyway. Here's the disclaimer of sorts:

Yes, I am crazy. But this is a FanPost blog post where anything can be true, and let's see how this works out here perhaps.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS THE MYSTICS SHOULD STRONGLY CONSIDER GIVING AN OFFER SHEET TO

1. Swingman Angel McCoughtry

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: Last season, Angel was on the Olympic team and was a nice spark off the bench and was a great clean up board grabber too. For the Dream, where she's played for her four seasons, McCoughtry averaged 19.5 points on 43% shooting and over 4 rebounds per game. Her 2012 averages were above her career averages for scoring, rebounds, and assists. On the defensive end, McCoughtry is also going to help the team in the steals category and could fit Thibault's system quite well. Lastly, she's from nearby Baltimore, so regionalists will like the move.

Why not: In Mystics owner Ted Leonsis' "Ten Point Plan" on rebuilding sports teams, here's point 7:

7. No jerks allowed. Implement a no jerk policy. Draft and develop and keep high character people. Team chemistry is vital to success. Make sure the best and highest paid players are coachable, show respect to the system, want to be in the city, love to welcome new, young players to the team, have respect for the fan base, show joy in their occupation, get the system, believe in the coaches, have fun in practice, and want to be gym rats. Dump [players who are team distractions as quickly as you can]. Life is too short to drink bad wine.

McCoughtry unfortunately may fit the category of jerk that Ted's talking about here. Her interactions with the Dream after the 2012 Olympics were weird to say the least, and she was suspended for a few games by head coach Fred Williams, following the termination of his predecessor, Marynell Meadors, who coincidentally was an assistant on the Olympic team. This alone will give teams reason not to pursue her in free agency, especially if they feel that their guard situation is in good order as is.

From a basketball only standpoint, the Mystics' top three players (Langhorne, Currie, Ajavon) are all turnover prone players though they are able to score points. While McCoughtry is a more efficient scorer than Currie and Ajavon who are also wing players, she is a turnover prone player herself where she's averaged more turnovers a game than assists in all of her years in the league. In addition, she hasn't been a particularly great three point shooter, though she can compensate for it with her driving ability.

Is it realistic that Angel would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Dream match? She probably won't sign an offer sheet with DC because this team doesn't appear to be competitive in the short term, and there are other teams that may want her. And I think that Atlanta will match any offer sheet for her services. After all, she was a big reason why the Dream has been competitive and a perennial playoff team the last several years. But you can never say never in free agency, right?

2. Swingman DeWanna Bonner

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: Last year, she had a career high in scoring with over 20 points a game for the Phoenix Mercury. She also gets to the free throw line often and makes her shots at the stripe. She is a very tall and lengthy player and will pose matchup problems for opposing teams.

Why Not: In 2012, the Mercury only won 7 games due to injuries to their stars, and Bonner only made 36% of her shots to get to 20 points a game. In addition, she doesn't address the Mystics' woes as a three point shooting team. She's also another perimeter/wing player who has a negative assist to turnover ratio, and won't help the team's needs there.

Is it realistic that DeWanna would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Mercury match? If the Mystics offer her a max deal and no one else does, she may sign the offer sheet. If the Mercury has salary issues heading into next season, DeWanna may sign an offer sheet and remain somewhere else, even here in DC if Thibault goes for her, but I assume that they're going to let Nakia Sanford walk, and sign another rookie center with a first round draft pick. So, in short, Phoenix will likely match an offer if they can.

3. Guard Briann January

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: January is a strong perimeter defender, and also had career highs for scoring (10 ppg), and field goal perecentage, both overall and from three while playing on the Fever, where she won a title. She would be the Mystics' starting point guard for 2013 as well.

Why Not: 2012 was her best season, or is it just a fluke? In her other seasons in the WNBA, January averaged under 40% shooting overall and from three every year. Also, the talent around her in Indiana was much better than it would be in DC. Sometimes players are great for some systems and bad in others. And would other teams that need a point guard be more attractive options for her?

Is it realistic that Briann would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Fever match? Basically like with Bonner, if the Mystics offer her a big contract for WNBA terms, the Fever may decide not to match, though as you probably noticed, their franchise player, Tamika Catchings is also an unrestricted free agent, and the Fever would probably try to make one more run with its current core, and ideally with a healthy Katie Douglas. So if I'm Thibault, I'd go for her, but I also would do so knowing that she probably has other suitors, and Indiana still will likely match the offer sheet anyway.

4. Guard Renee Montgomery

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: She is the current Sixth Woman of the Year, and is from Thibault's system. And if she's signed, she'd be the starting point guard for the Mystics and has been a starting point guard for the Sun in 2010 and 2011. She gets to the line often and makes the opposition pay.

Why Not: She isn't a particularly efficient scorer, and her field goal percentage dropped from 40% to 35% from 2011 to 2012.

Is it realistic that Renee would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Sun match? She may be a realistic signing for the Mystics on an offer sheet considering that Kara Lawson basically took her starting spot this season, and to be fair, she really deserved it given her play. That said, I don't know if the Sun would just let her go for essentially nothing but who knows?

5. Guard Kristi Toliver

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: Kristi is one of the top scoring point guards in the WNBA and led the Sparks in scoring last year She made nearly 50% of her shots, over 40% of her threes (64-151), and over 90% of her free throws (137-152). Also, Toliver averaged 4.9 assists per game She has also increased her scoring output in each of her four WNBA seasons. Lastly, she is a UMD grad and would appeal to fans who also are UMD basketball fans.

Why Not: Kristi is not a particularly efficient ball handler. She did average 4.9 assists, but also dished 3.65 turnovers. This is one area that she needs to improve regardless of what team she is on. Also, there's something I learned from my parents when I was a kid. Just because someone was really successful in one place at one position doesn't mean that person will be just as successful in another place. In LA, Kristi got to play with a very talented lineup consisting of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Alana Beard among others. On the Mystics, it's safe to say that Kristi will not enjoy the same talent around her and she may not be as successful as a Mystic.

Is it realistic that Kristi would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Sparks match? I'd say that though she may sign an offer sheet with another team, even Washington since in theory, Kristi could arguably be the number one player on the Mystics this season, let alone in the backcourt, I do think the Sparks will match any offer for her, because she is a true perimeter shooting threat to go along with the multi-talented Candace Parker and current rookie of the year Nneka Ogwumike.

6. Guard Candice Wiggins

Why try to get her to sign an offer sheet: She is a former Sixth Woman of the Year from 2008, is able to score points in a hurry, and is a good three point shooter. Her minutes have been decimated in the last couple years primarily due to the fact that the team she played on, the Minnesota Lynx, is very stacked at the top of the roster, with Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and Monica Wright all also able to take minutes at guard. Wright also plays a similar role as a backup guard for the Lynx, though she isn't as strong of a three point shooter.

Either way, Wiggins may want a contract that's too large for room to keep all of these aforementioned players together. In DC, Wiggins would be an upgrade at the guard spot and will be able to start at either position for 2013.

Why Not: I am a broken record like with Bonner, but she hasn't been a particularly efficient scorer throughout her entire career, only averaging a little below 40% of her total shots attempted in five seasons. On a team like DC, would her efficiency go down?

Is it realistic that Candice would sign an offer sheet with the Mystics and would the Lynx match? Of all the players I have mentioned thus far, I think she is the most readily available, because the Lynx can't keep all of their current backcourt and wing players together with Monica Wright and Maya Moore soon getting their sophomore deals in coming seasons. For that reason, the Lynx may not match, but perhaps they could do a sign and trade so they could get some value for her if Wiggins were to leave. Now would Wiggins want to sign with the Mystics? I think it's possible if she wants an opportunity to show that she can be a starter as she gets into the prime of her career.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS NOT ON THE 2012 MYSTICS THE TEAM NEEDS TO CONSIDER

Obviously, most players I mention here will either sign with the teams they played on last season, and some may just laugh at Thibault when he offers them a deal or possibly even talks to their agents. However, the only way he is guaranteed not to get a player is if he doesn't give their agents a ring.

1. Forward Tamika Catchings (please laugh at me now)

Why she will fit in DC: First, it's because she's an unrestricted free agent, end of story. So at least as a technicality, Catchings will be the number one star player available. That means all 12 teams in theory have an equal chance to get her. She has a multidimensional game,, both as a strong all around defender, and also as a true playmaker offensively. She is one of the faces of the WNBA and would likely be a bigger face if she was on a larger market team.

Why not: Now I will hit reality. Catchings just won a championship in Indiana and was the Finals MVP. Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf and Herb Simon will do whatever it takes to keep her there.

Even from a basketball only lens, and as a team that's rebuilding, the Mystics' core should ideally be made up of younger players with upside. Catchings is as good as she'll ever be right now and she will decline during her next contract one way or another. She is 33 years old and I doubt that she would want to play on a rebuilding team anyway at this point in her career while she is still playing at a high level. And even if she did play in DC, that means that she'd be taking minutes away from a younger player. Still, even rebuilding teams need a strong veteran presence and player who is a higher performer on that team, and Catchings would fit that role on any team she's on since that's what she does right now.

2. Guard Lindsey Harding

Why she will fit in DC: Harding has developed into one of the top play calling point guards in the WNBA where she has gradually improved her assist to turnover ratio to well over 2 to 1 in her two years with the Atlanta Dream in 2011 and 2012. In addition, she was the starting point guard for the Washington Mystics in their two year resurgence in 2009 and 2010 and is widely regarded by the Mystics fans to be their best point guard ever. Lastly, Harding can score when needed, and gets to the free throw line regularly. She will be one of the top players that teams will covet and considering that Harding said that she always liked Washington, DC and wouldn't have left here if they didn't change the front office staff in 2010, there's a chance that she may want to return now that a top tier coach will be there this season.

Why Not: Ideally, a point guard needs to be a strong perimeter shooter, and with the old three point line, Harding has only averaged 26% of her attempts for her entire career and her best season from three (both efficiency and threes made) was in 2009 for the Mystics where she made 20 of 62 shots. With the further three point line, can Harding drive effectively to the basket at all when the opposing team defense will just pack the paint and dare her to shoot? Kind of reminds me of another point guard in Washington, DC for the NBA.

3. Guard Temeka Johnson

Why she will fit in DC: Johnson is another effective point guard who gets teammates in a position to score while being able to score when she has to. With the Sparks and Mercury, there were In 2012 for the Tulsa Shock, she had a career high in three point shooting percentage at 53% (34-64 shots) and overall scoring when she scored 12.2 points a game and also dished 4.7 dimes a game. She is another former Mystics point guard too, for what it's worth, where she played for them in 2005.

Why Not: I don't find a blaring weakness, like lack of three point shooting ability, or a horrible assist to turnover ratio with Johnson like I have noticed with many other free agents. However from her end, she is the leader of the Shock, and why would she want to come to Washington and change coaching philosophies, etc. on a team that still expects to be the worst in the league for 2013 and may still not be a playoff team in 2014? The Shock should be in position to make the playoffs by then for sure with sound coaching and development by Coach Klop.

4. Guard Ivory Latta

Why she will fit in DC: Latta enjoyed a career high in scoring last year for the Shock scoring 14.3 points per game. Like pretty much every other guard I mentioned thus far, Latta would be a presumptive starting guard for the Mystics, likely at the point guard position.

Why not: Not a blaring statistical weakness like Johnson, but though she has had decent numbers, Latta did so playing on the worst WNBA team in 2010 and 2011, and team that wasn't much better in 2012 though to be fair, the Shock last year played much better than a nine win team. At least Temeka Johnson has played starting caliber minutes on championship WNBA teams and can bring that experience with her. In addition for Latta specifically, she will be 28 this year, and in her prime. If she plans on playing on another team in 2013, she may be trying to play on a team with legitimate Finals aspirations while the Mystics are looking to rebuild.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, this evaluation of free agents here isn't exhaustive by any means. And as you probably noticed, the vast majority of the players who I put here as potential free agent targets are perimeter players. Some of you may believe that the Mystics acquiring one of these players, in particular someone who may be a potential starting point guard I mentioned here may tip their hand that they don't want Skylar Diggins and want Elena Delle Donne if they decide to trade up in the 2013 Draft. Not necessarily.

Like I mentioned in a piece on the Tulsa Shock's draft prospects that Diggins could realistically be a shooting or combo guard given that she is a good scorer depending on where she ends up. Even on Tulsa's 2012 team, Ivory Latta has played more off the ball. And besides, having a backcourt of two good combo guards can be a joy to watch, and it may not hurt to have an experienced point guard and Skylar Diggins together in the backcourt if Diggins ends up in DC that is. Good guards also have a knack for knowing how to play together, so I'm not too worried about the team being a bit deep at the point guard position at the present time.

So there you have it regarding the Mystics and possible free agents they can acquire as well as which players from last year's team they should consider keeping. If you disagree or think someone else really needs a look, go ahead and post your comment below!

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