New Mystics center Kia Vaughn will provide a younger presence at the center position along with power forward Crystal Langhorne. - Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Today, the New York Liberty have announced that they have traded restricted free agent center Kia Vaughn and the 17th pick in the 2013 Draft to the Washington Mystics in exchange for the 7th overall pick in the Draft which was acquired in a deal involving Jasmine Thomas. Vaughn is entering her fifth WNBA season where she averaged 6.4 points and 5 rebounds a game in 31 games played including 17 starts in 2012. Her best season statistically was in 2011 where she was named the WNBA's Most Improved Player.
For the New York Liberty
This trade indicates to me that New York Liberty coach and GM Bill Laimbeer must be really eyeing multiple players in the middle of the first round for the 2013 Draft. Second, because Kia Vaughn was a restricted free agent this offseason, the Liberty signed and traded her to Washington. Third, it appears that Laimbeer will go with Kara Braxton as his starting center going forward though she is an unrestricted free agent as of the time of this post, and the fact that she spent the 2005-2009 seasons under his system with the Shock certainly seem to be partly why.
Overall I think this a good trade for the Liberty since there is a more defined role for Braxton in particular in the low post assuming she's re-signed, and the Liberty may be able to pick two more young contributors at the 5th and 7th spots of the 2013 Draft if they keep those picks. If Laimbeer is trying to move up in the 2013 Draft to the "Big Three," the 5th and 7th picks could be part of that package.
If both of those picks become solid starters or better on a future perennial contending Liberty team, Bill Laimbeer will be a genius of the 2013 Draft. And really, I think he may be when it's all said and done.
For the Washington Mystics
Every move new Mystics coach Mike Thibault has made so far has been a move that I believe makes basketball sense and has been a move that I have approved wholeheartedly. This is yet another such move.
Though the Mystics had a deeper frontcourt than a backcourt in the 2012 season, the center position, which is held by Michelle Snow and unrestricted free agent Ashley Robinson, could have used an additional boost. Vaughn is a younger veteran center who may be able to provide major minutes at that position and also possibly be a long term move. The additional second round pick also allows Coach Thibault to find another possible diamond in the rough in this deeper than normal draft.
However, there are still more questions that arise from the Vaughn acquisition. First, the Mystics still have Michelle Snow under contract. Does she figure to be a backup post to Vaughn and presumably Crystal Langhorne along with Avery Warley? This move, to me at least, all but indicates that Ashley Robinson will not be re-signed to the team.
Second, the Mystics still have the 4th pick in the 2013 Draft. Tianna Hawkins, the power forward from Maryland is having one hell of a senior season and averaging over 18 points and 9 rebounds a game. Now with Vaughn presumably at starting center and if Langhorne stays with the Mystics and is at the starting power forward slot, does this tip Coach Thibault's hand saying that he doesn't necessarily want to draft her at #4?
If Hawkins is in fact drafted by the Mystics at #4, she may end up as a backup, and considering the need for the team to invest in a younger core, and with Vaughn being part of that group and Langhorne presumably as the veteran leader, I don't think DC is the best scenario for Hawkins at least. She could be a starter on some other teams, at least to me. It is also arguable that Tianna is the 4th best player available in the draft regardless of which team has that pick, and even if Texas A&M center Kelsey Bone goes pro this season, I don't find it likely that Thibault would draft her there either now with Vaughn in DC. Also there may be a number of teams that may want Hawkins at #4.
So far this offseason, the Mystics have addressed the guard position by signing Ivory Latta, and now the low post is deeper with Kia Vaughn and Crystal Langhorne. Still, the wing positions are very much in flux, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Coach Thibault address that area very soon with another deal.
We also have yet to see as to whether Matee Ajavon and Monique Currie also figure to be part of this team's 2013 plans, and right now, I'm not sure if they do.
UPDATE AT 3:30 PM ET
The Washington Mystics have now made a press release of the move which can be read here.
Here's a quote from Thibault in regards to the move which is quite telling:
This is another big step in our re-making of this team. Kia is a proven but still young veteran who can play both post positions and will be a great compliment to Crystal Langhorne. She has made great strides since she came into the league and yet I think her best basketball is still ahead of her. We are excited to have her and look forward to her having a major impact on our bright future.
For the first time since he took this job in a quick interview before his first press conference, Coach Thibault mentioned Crystal by name. Along with the recent photo he had with her, I think it's safe to say that he believes that she will be on this team for the 2013 season barring injury or an "offer he can't refuse."
UPDATE AT 10:50 PM ET
Press release links updated. H/T to ttdomi for the note!