Washington Mystics GM and Head Coach Mike Thibault gives interview on 2013 Draft strategy

Mike Thibault gave more insight on the Mystics and what he'd like to see for the 2013 team. - David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Today, Washington Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault gave an interview today on Monumental Network in regards to what he's looking for in the 2013 Draft. The interview is a little over eight minutes long.

Most of the questions were about meat and potatoes basketball and what Mystics fans can expect for 2013 and that's what I'm focusing on. There are some fluff ones like Mark Cuban and Brittney Griner but watch the interview for that. Brittney's not playing here barring an Act of God.

Here are the main things that Coach said in regards to the Draft and the 2013 season, and what I have as a takeaway from it.

1. The 4th pick will likely either be "a wing or a post."

This comes as no surprise to me. In addition, Coach Thibault said that he and his staff have now narrowed down who their possible picks may be at the fourth spot. Though he mentioned that there were several players he was looking at, here are six seven players that the Mystics may be considering in no particular order of preference based on what they could do for the Mystics (note that he did not mention any of these players by name EXCEPT Bone):

  • Tayler Hill, G, Ohio State
  • Tianna Hawkins, F, Maryland
  • Kelsey Bone, C, Texas A&M
  • Sugar Rodgers, G, Georgetown
  • Kelly Faris, G, Connecticut
  • Toni Young, F, Oklahoma State (some folks are high on her and she could be a star in the long term)
  • Layshia Clarendon, G, California (she is playing damn good in this tourney! She still has room for improvement like to get her three point and free throws up, but these skills are very improvable!)

2. Thibault gave his preliminary starting lineup as of today and where the 4th pick would likely play on this team.

Drum roll please!

Position Name
Guard Ivory Latta
Guard Matee Ajavon
Forward Monique Currie
Forward Crystal Langhorne
Center Kia Vaughn

In short, this comes as no surprise at least to me and for Coach Thibault, he can't really say whether he'd trade any of his top players right now because we're now at a pretty sensitive time where transactions are more likely to happen.

Given that Coach Thibault is debating on whether to pick a guard or a post player, he also said something pretty obvious to all of us. If he drafts a post player at #4, that player is going to be on the bench to back up Langhorne and Vaughn along with Michelle Snow and Avery Warley who he didn't mention in the interview. If the player is a guard, she's going to a have a legitimate shot to make the starting lineup on opening night. It's clear that the backcourt is a major weakness in DC, and there needs to be an additional reinforcement there.

At any rate, he hopes the 4th pick will be a rotation player at a bare minimum.

For some hypothetical starting lineups, I wrote a comment on what the rotations may look like in Nate's post on how strong of a draft prospect Kelsey Bone is and gave some various rotations there based on whether they get her or a guard.

3. The 4th pick will be someone who the Mystics think may be a star in her prime.

Obviously, this rookie isn't going to be "someone to see" at least in the eyes of ESPN. However, if developed right, this player could be someone who may be a well respected name and a player who is legitimately helping her team win games. For example, Lindsay Whalen is an example of such a player under his system who became that type of player for the Connecticut Sun when she was under Thibault's tutelage. Now she's one of the top five guards in the WNBA easily, and maybe even top three.

4. The 2nd round picks will have a chance to make the team.

Considering the need for youth on the Mystics from last year's debacle with "the veteran movement," that's obvious. I personally think both should make the team and at least one have a shot for rotation minutes. It doesn't make sense to me that a 30 some year old player should have a better chance at making the roster than young players with more upside on a team that is in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

5. A trade on draft day cannot be ruled out and Thibault mentioned that.

Since he was hired, Thibault made that ominous statement that he is not afraid to trade anyone on the team because it's business, even if the fans loved that player. So far, the only player defections have been Jasmine Thomas and players that chose not to sign in DC with Noelle Quinn signing with Seattle and the retirement of Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. At this point, any other free agents in Mystics uniforms last year, most notably Ashley Robinson will probably not be here this season.

My overall thoughts on the Mystics roster

I'll be brutally honest here though it's still very early. I am not happy with the hypothetical current starting lineup of Latta-Ajavon-Currie-Langhorne-Vaughn. I also assume that Coach Thibault is not satisfied with that roster either.

As I've indicated throughout the offseason so far, Coach Thibault has made significant moves and yes, he has added upside to the roster, which is better than the 2012 team which had NONE. But for whatever reason, I don't think this team has enough upside because of this: the top three players on last year's 2012 team remain and therefore the core is the same. I wouldn't be complaining much if all three of Langhorne-Currie-Ajavon are under 25 years old each but they're in their primes now and are probably not going to improve much more than they are now at least individually. Therefore changing the core could shake things up considerably and likely for the better. The Mystics were a bad team last year, but it wasn't because of injuries affecting most of the top stars like the Phoenix Mercury.

This core was healthy for nearly the entire year and won five games. While you can blame the last Head Coach and GM for much of the mess in 2012, she did not play the games on the court. They did. At least someone in the Langhorne-Currie-Ajavon core needs to be broken up because it clearly didn't work last year, and even if Thibault has this core this season, I just don't see the team having that much more potential in the long term. I'm not saying that Crystal, Mo, and Matee aren't good players individually, but all three together didn't produce results when they were showcased players in last year's campaign.

It's also possible that Coach Thibault may have made a decision not to alter the core right away in order to give them "one last chance" to show that 2012 is not an accurate reflection on them. Maybe he's going to "take the bait" that he could pull another 2010 Mystics run from them though I seriously doubt it. If the results on the court are still not much better than 10-11 wins for 2013, then maybe he will move the team in another direction.

And in any circumstance, I just can't see the 4th pick in the 2013 Draft who is going to the worst WNBA team as a player with backup minutes. Barring a nearly impossible scenario like acquisitions of multiple top 10 WNBA players to the Mystics while keeping the number four pick, she has to play at least close to starter level minutes from day one. The worst team doesn't have the luxury of drafting and stashing someone with long term upside, let alone a team in a league with the 11 man roster and a team that has a core is in its prime, assuming the core remains.

Conclusion

There seems to be a clearer idea of what the Washington Mystics may look like in 2013 now that the Draft is less than two weeks away. Coach Thibault appears to be happy with his starting low post players but he also realizes that the backcourt can still improve via the draft or perhaps with another trade.

Either way, I look forward to seeing how he continues to improve the backcourt, and how he finalizes his roster before late May. I also remain optimistic that he will continue to make sound basketball moves to continue adding upside for the long term future of the Washington Mystics.

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