Team Building Options For the 2013 Washington Mystics: Part 2 of 3

Links To The Other Parts

Part One | Part Three | Appendix on December 31, 2012

This is the second of three parts and this is likely the one that will likely be the most unrealistic, but the only way it will never happen if the Mystics don't try. In this plan, the Mystics make an attempt to move up in the 2013 Draft.

Option 2: Trade up to a top three position in the 2013 WNBA Draft Using The 4th Pick for 2013 as well as subsequent 1st round and 2nd round picks in future draft (a/k/a the move for RGIII). In addition, the rest of the rebuild will still be primarily based around a youth movement where the Mystics can sign younger free agents and also 1st and 2nd round picks who are cut from training camp, which is bound to happen with many WNBA teams.

The Washington Redskins NFL franchise knew that after the end of the 2011 season that it needed a quarterback after dealing with the double headed nightmare of Rex Grossman and John Beck. Everyone in the NFL knew that the top two quarterbacks in the 2012 Draft would be Andrew Luck of Stanford University, and Robert Griffin III of Baylor University. After the Colts, owners of the worst NFL record in 2011 parted ways with Peyton Manning, and got the 1st pick in the 2012 draft, they then used that 1st pick to draft Andrew Luck and made no attempt to hide the fact that they would draft him or possibly RGIII. The Skins knew that they had to get #2 from the St. Louis Rams which had the 2nd worst record, and was able to get this pick because the Rams already had a promising young QB in Sam Bradford. If they weren't able to get this 2nd pick to guarantee Griffin, or Andrew Luck (assuming the Colts did get RGIII). the Skins could still get a QB at #6, their normal position, but they weren't confident that the QB's likely to be available would have the talent to turn the team's offense around.

In the Rams deal, Washington gave up their 2012 1st round pick (the 6th pick), their 2012 2nd round pick, and their 2013 and 2014 1st round picks. This allowed the Redskins to draft Robert Griffin III and so far, he has put up good numbers for a quarterback, let alone a rookie. This trade was also imbalanced and in favor for the Rams, who subsequently traded the 6th pick from the Redskins to the Cowboys, the Skins’ biggest rival for more picks. But it's not like the Redskins necessarily lost in the deal because of the man they picked at #2. Griffin has been a nationally recognizable and likable figure in the tough DC sports landscape, and is the most recognizable rookie by far in the 2012 NFL rookie class. So long as Griffin stays free from injury and other bad press, it is safe to say that he has changed the landscape for the better for the Redskins.

Okay, so how does RGIII apply to the Mystics? Are you crazy?

Yes, I am crazy. But this is a FanPost where anything can be true, and let's see how this works out here perhaps. In this option, the Mystics would pick up the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd picks in the 2013 draft, and in return would give up their 4th pick for the 2013 Draft plus multiple 1st and 2nd round draft picks in future years.

For all realistic purposes though, Phoenix is not trading the 1st pick. Really, the Mercury isn’t going to do it. So that leaves Chicago and Tulsa as trade partners for #2 and #3. To make the pros of such a plan even make sense, let's assume that Pokey Chatman or Steve Swetoha agrees to a deal with the Mystics GM.

An example where only picks would be involved could be like this:

  1. The Sky trades the 2nd pick for the 2013 Draft for the Mystics' 4th pick in the 2013 Draft, the 2nd round pick in the 2013 Draft, and their 1st round picks for 2014, 2015, and 2016.
  2. The Shock trades the 3rd pick for the 2013 Draft for the Mystics' 4th pick in the 2013 Draft, the 2nd round pick in the 2013 Draft, and their 1st round picks for 2014 and 2015.

The Pros of this plan for the Mystics and ONLY from their perspective:

  1. The Mystics get a Big Three pick, and get a franchise player for at least the next five to ten years. They can now have some peace of mind that a big need on this team, would be filled, whether it's Diggins' playmaking, scoring, and driving ability, or Delle Donne's scoring and multi dimensional game at the post and perimeter. Kind of obvious. The player will be here longer assuming the Mystics start improving over the next several years.
  2. Existing fan morale is improved. Also obvious. This restores at least some hope into the fans.
  3. On the business front, there will be at least some prospective season ticket holders trying to buy in for 2013. I don't like using marketing as a reason to trade up, but considering that stands have been emptier in particular last two years, making such a move will give short term boosts in interest, while long term, Skylar/Elena and her teammates will still have to build chemistry, and start winning more games over the long term, like what I point out in option 1 with just a "Stay the course" plan and build young. If the Mystics can get the 2nd pick and use that pick to get Skylar or the 3rd pick to get Skylar if she's available, they also get a star who will likely be among the most marketed in the WNBA for some time to come to games not just because she is a hell of a guard, but also because she is attractive. Not gonna lie there. At this point, the Mystics really may have to use that as a way to put butts in seats and then get people to know that their top rookie can ball too.
  4. This could attract a better coach to town, assuming the head coach and GM are in different bodies. Ted and Sheila have not decided what to do with this role. If they do put the GM and head coach in different bodies, this could signal a reversal of the times as it shows that WNBA teams probably need to invest more in development. Just saying.
  5. Better free agents may want to play here. They probably don't want to play for Sheila Johnson or Ted Leonsis, but they would want to play with Skylar or Elena and for the new front office.
  6. It is possible that Elena Delle Donne could exhibit strong indications that she wants to go to the East Coast, and this possibly plays into the Mystics' favor because none of the other teams are east coast teams. On NBA TV, Elena said that she would like to play for an east coast team if she had her way though she never ruled anyone out. A large part why is because she wants to be close to her older sister who has cerebral palsy and her home is in rather nearby Delaware. I don't like regionalism, but having Elena on the Mystics is like hitting two birds with one stone. One, she is from the Mid Atlantic which satisfies regionalists, and two, she is one hell of a player.
  7. Forgive the conspiracy theorist in me, but last year, NBA Commissioner David Stern blocked a CP3 to Lakers trade because of "basketball reasons." But he soon allowed him to go to the Clips... Maybe WNBA Commissioner Laurel Richie (I know she's President, but I like the word Commish better) could try to strongly encourage a trade with Chicago or Tulsa, in particular if Ted or Sheila indicates to her that the team is considering folding right then and there because of the lottery. Sheila Johnson was basically speechless after coming away with the 4th pick, and the marketing for 2013 season tickets was in part predicated on the hope and near guarantee that a Big Three pick comes here. Laurel Richie is a respected marketer and isn't an idiot. She's Ivy League educated from Dartmouth College. She knows very well that though the draft lottery got people talking, she also knows that the Mystics were royally screwed, fans are leaving this team and the 4th pick will only make matters worse. This was a near fatal blow to the team's morale, if not its existence. We will never know if Richie will do this or did this should it happen, but she doesn't want to see a team fold or relocate because of the Mystics' circumstances on her watch. A trade like this will create more buzz because people will keep talking about the WNBA and also keep 12 teams in the league because the Mystics benefit with a star pick, while the other team gets a potential gold mine of draft picks from a team that will still be in the lottery for Skylar or Elena's first two years at least while it is building its identity (again taking a page from the old GM). That could get Chicago or Tulsa a top pick in 2014 and 2015 for trading the Big Three pick.

The Cons of this plan for the Mystics:

  1. Well, for those of you who laughed hysterically while reading the last few paragraphs I know exactly why. The biggest thing is that it takes two to tango. While the Sky and Shock both have a young tier one star in Sylvia Fowles and Liz Cambage respectively, these teams also know that Diggins or Delle Donne would shore up their weaknesses in similar fashion that DC needs. Chicago needs to get in the playoffs now for its fans and Diggins/EDD certainly makes a 2013 appearance more likely. Can the 4th pick do that? Also, even if the Mystics are willing to give up multiple first round picks, the Sky and Shock may be entrenched in a position that NO DRAFT PICK COMBINATION COULD EVER MAKE IT HAPPEN even if the Mystics with Skylar or Elena yields the Sky or Shock two or three straight number one picks in subsequent years. Teams just may feel that way and it often happens in these kinds of drafts.
  2. Speaking about no draft pick combination making this happen, basketball is not football. There are only one or two true impact players in each draft, because there are five players on a basketball team at any one time, while in football, there are 11 players on the field at any one time. Basketball players just have more impact than football players do.
  3. The Sky and Shock could possibly get more for their big three picks from any other team than the Mystics. Assume that the Sky and Shock do want to trade their picks. The Mystics are the least talented team in the league. While the Mystics' most valuable assets are also future draft picks in 2014, 2015, and beyond, the only player who could command a legit All Star player in a deal is Langhorne. Other teams may be able to give better stars than Langhorne and therefore have an easier time getting that pick if that's what they want.
  4. It is likely the Sky or Shock would demand Langhorne, the 4th pick, and subsequent 1st round picks in such a deal. And that's if they are willing to trade a big three pick to DC. Many Mystics fans believe that Crystal is untradeable because she is the homegrown star (and a star who wasn't necessarily expected to be one), and to some others it's also because she is from UMD. The latter reeks regionalism and Our Girls Syndrome. While I would like to keep Crystal if at all possible for basketball reasons, the Mystics just had their worst two year stretch ever. The team must be willing to listen to anything and everything. If Chicago or Tulsa will give up a big three pick for Langhorne plus other assets, that is a deal worth listening to in my opinion, though ideally, I wouldn't want to do it. I also have to note that the reality is that the Mystics do not have many tradeable assets that could get them an all star or a star pick in return by themselves. The 4th pick alone won't do it for sure by itself. Langhorne won't bring in a Top five player either. Combining both the fourth pick, and Langhorne, AND future first round picks, may be appealing though.
  5. Even if the Mystics can get this deal done, will at least some of the 1st and 2nd round picks that get cut during camp and get signed by the Mystics pan out? Well, obviously not everyone pans out. However, it is imperative that the Mystics develop some of these players into high contributors for the future. But then again, they did get cut by their original teams for a reason. Let's hope that they were cut just because most other GM's valued experience over youth and potential. Still, there should be some skilled players who will be cut in camp and the Mystics could find some gems here for long term development with the Big Three pick.
  6. How much of the future and the Big Three picks' early career must be sacrificed in order for her just to wear a Mystics uniform for a few years at least? This is a deal that goes against a traditional rebuild around youth. The Mystics will likely still be a lottery team in 2013 if Skylar or Elena are Mystics. In addition, they may very well not have Langhorne either and that is just so they can get Skylar or Elena. The Mystics must hope that some younger decent free agents play for them and sell that they will get to play alongside a young star who may very well be generational. Owners tend to be risk averse when multiple first round picks are traded away for one star draft pick, and would Ted and Sheila want to make this non-tradtional rebuild like move just for Skylar or Elena? If they believe that they must get Skylar or Elena in order to keep the team competitive, and ultimately keep the team in business, Ted and Sheila better be sure that this big three pick is the real deal from day one and can provide an impact that is greater than what Crystal Langhorne is right now both on the court, and off of it.
  7. Speaking about the League Office, if the Mystics offer this much to the Sky or Shock for Skylar or EDD, is it possible that the WNBA may turn it down for "basketball reasons?" If David Stern can block CP3 from going to the Lakers because it just makes them richer, then Laurel Richie could prevent Skylar or EDD from being a Mystic because the Mystics may be giving all these potentially good picks that would be traded away to a better team.

So those are my points in regards to this option where the Mystics trade up to get Skylar Diggins or Elena Delle Donne. On one hand, this gives the Mystics a face of the league at least in her early years. This also gives the Mystics a true fresh start, whether or not Langhorne is also on this team. Ticket sales are also likely to go up with either of these players, perhaps significantly, and this team needs to do that too.

However, aside from the fact that this is not likely, if not laughable, the Mystics must also pay a price to make this type of a move. How many future lottery picks are they willing to give up for this player? They're most likely not a playoff team in 2013 anyway. Will they also have to let go of Langhorne to make this deal? Can the Mystics still attract some decent free agents, preferably younger players to play around Skylar or Elena? And most importantly, WILL MAKING THIS MOVE ACTUALLY HURT THE MYSTICS' LONG TERM FUTURE MORE THAN JUST STAYING THE COURSE?

There is a part of me that is burning to say that they cannot do this because the Mystics will lose out on potential assets in 2014 and 2015 where they can get more draft picks. In basketball, this type of a move may very well put Skylar or Elena in a position where she may have to do everything by herself, like Crystal Langhorne seemed to have been in last couple seasons and hamper her development. If this team was in a stable league like the Wizards or Capitals, I'd tell the Mystics not to do this under any circumstances. There will also be future drafts, and these teams aren't going anywhere. However, I don't know if the Mystics can last past 2013 given morale and performance last two years and perhaps the team's past 15 years, not just the last two days.

Like I said in option one, fans are impatient and want to see hope now or they will bail. Many already did. Fans generally don't trust team president Sheila Johnson and cannot hold her to her word. And I don't either. This move may start building some of that trust back between fans and Ms. Johnson in particular.

This draft is potentially generational at the top especially, and trading for one of these players will give hope to the fans. If things work out (and this move of course will be done with a good front office), that franchise player will be viewed as the Mystics' best player ever. The sooner a decision is made on this issue, the better.

At the end of the day, I really can go either way on this option because I too want to see hope now, and a traditional rebuild may not do it for me either knowing all the other things I've been seeing last couple years. But at the same time, this is also arguably the highest risk, but also highest reward move the Mystics could make at this critical time when it comes to player personnel.


Update on December 31, 2012: As you know, the Redskins ended up 10-6 in the 2012 NFL season and won the NFC East. I have more thoughts on that as an appendix you can see here.