This is the second part of our roundtable on the Washington Mystics' offseason and the questions that surround it. Today, we will talk about their frontcourt and what direction they could be moving in. Part 1's here if you missed it last week.
Andy, Ebenezer, and I will answer questions. We added Sara Flannigan, a/k/a MysticsFan1 in our group as well.
So let's go!
1. Should Monique Currie remain with the Mystics for 2015, even considering that small forward has been a position where they don't have much depth?
Andy: Last year was Currie's least productive full season, but you're right the forward depth is very thin, unless Thibault starts stacking two traditional centers in the front court. I would bet that the team will still want her to leverage some stability with a young group, but she could be surpassed easily for the position.
Ebenezer: Monique Currie shouldn’t have been a Mystic in 2014! Currie has the physical talent and skill to be a small forward not unlike Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry, but has never found consistency, even after nearly a decade in the pros. Basically speaking, it’s (FINALLY) time for a change.
Sara: No. Currie's time with the Mystics is well up. Her 2014 averages went down, and she is extremely inconsistent, putting up 20 points up in one game and 5 in the next, for instance, and she probably won't be improving at the age of 32.
AL: Small forward depth will be a major weakness for the Mystics in 2015 whether Currie stays or not. Either way, it's time for them to let her go somewhere else where she can realistically win a championship. She won't do it in D.C., but she could be a nice scoring punch off the bench for a team like Minnesota or Phoenix.
Mike Thibault's ongoing purge of past Mystics players should be no surprise to anyone at this point. Currie is the last Mystics player who played there before he arrived. Thibault didn't hesitate to get rid of all of the previous regime's draft picks in his first offseason. He even shipped away most of the team's previous "stars-by-default," like Crystal Langhorne by year two. Letting Monique Currie go will finally give the Mystics' roster a clean break from the Trudi Lacey era and open up a starting spot for a number of players next summer.
2. If Currie doesn't return in 2015, who on the current roster should be their starting small forward?
Andy: I think I would like to see Jelena Milovanovic get the start and pair up with Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson for an absolute shutdown interior. If that lineup exists, it will be on the guards to really step up offensively to take care of things, but Messeman's offensive game is still in an embryo right now.
EF: I think Coach Thibault will be able to acquire a player via the draft, free agency or from overseas who will be able to fill the wing. As for the current roster, therein lies management’s error for not addressing this void in the past two years.
The Mystics never had a viable backup at the 3-spot who they could have groomed into Currie’s successor. But a player that comes to mind is Tianna Hawkins. Yes, she’s a power forward, but the ex-Terp is actually very nimble for her size, and has a decent mid and long range game. It’s a longshot, but she could fill in the void for now.
SF: I don't think the Mystics have any true small forwards. Jelena Milovanovic is more of a power forward, while Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is most comfortable at the guard position. I think they will either draft one with the current pick, so I don't think their starting small forward is on the roster.
AL: This is a tough question, because the Mystics could be looking to fill this position through free agency. But among the current players on the roster, I would give the nod to Jelena Milovanovic, who will give the Mystics an additional perimeter shooting option in the starting lineup and could provide a mismatch given her 6'3 height. The other option is Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who is a better defender, but she is also prone to being a liability on offense.
3. Emma Meesseman could have very well won the 2014 Most Improved Player of the Year award if it weren't for Skylar Diggins. Just how good could she be in her prime?
More on the Mystics' future
More on the Mystics' future
Andy: I was a huge fan of Emma during the season and saw the potential she has to be a top star in the league. I think she needs a little bit more development and to have a team that knows how to pair the floor to match her game, but she could be as synonymous with Washington as Sue Bird has been with Seattle.
Ebenezer: Better than Lauren Jackson. Emma has all the goods to be the MVP: versatility, high basketball IQ, and we finally saw spurts of aggression in the latter years of the 2014 season. The problem is, does the Belgian WANT to be the MVP? Is she ready to step into the role of being that ‘It’ player which this franchise has lacked since the days of Chamique Holdsclaw? The answer to that question may well determine how far DC’s Finest will go in 2015.
Sara: Very, very good. Certainly a future All-Star, if she's not one this year. She's shown flashes of brilliance in both seasons here, and while she may not be our superstar, she's definitely part of the Mystics' core.
AL: I think Meesseman could be a Top 20 player in her prime, probably toward number 15 to 20. We have seen that she is able to fulfill many roles, including as a scorer, rebounder, defender, and as a playmaker. The next part of her development that I want to see is whether she can be more aggressive. Like Ebenezer said, the next major question for Meesseman is this: She is a Mystics star, but how BAD does she want to be a WNBA star?
4. Should Stefanie Dolson be the Mystics' starting center in 2015?
More on Stefanie Dolson
More on Stefanie Dolson
Andy: Yes. If the year in Russia has made her more comfortable of course. She has the size and the pedigree to earn the starting job but there were many instances where she looked overwhelmed and lost on the court. Pairing her correctly with Messeman, so Dolson can focus on rebounds and rim protection will help take more of the pressure off her plate.
Ebenezer: Yes indeed, and for at least three reasons:
- In both games where Big Mama Stef played at least 30 minutes, she recorded a double-double in points and rebounds.
- The Dolson/Meesseman combo was nigh-unstoppable in 2014. With both now playing alongside each other overseas; in 2015, they will be unstoppable.
- There’s a reason you picked her in the first round of the draft on a team which doesn't have much star talent as it is, as Albert seems to state all the time. It’s NOT to play off the bench.
Sara: Yes. I believe much of the starting lineup should be made up of young players, and she's shown promise as a rookie, even having a double double in her first start.
AL: If Dolson is playing alongside Emma Meesseman for Spartak in Moscow and is starting on that team where both are the team's leading scorers in EuroCup play, she better be starting in 2015. While they will develop chemistry by playing in Russia, that's not necessarily going to mean that they will be the next Tim Duncan and David Robinson, so I'm not calling them unstoppable. But they can be a very good post duo together.
5. Should Kia Vaughn remain with the Mystics in 2015 whether she starts over Dolson or not?
This is funny
This is funny
Andy: Vaughn should remain as a reserve, because her 9 pts and 6.3 rebounds per game are a great asset. It will take a hit her ego to not be starting, but if Dolson still isn't comfortable on the court, Vaughn can slide into that position without skipping a beat.
Ebenezer: As I mentioned above, Dolson should be the starting center. Last season, Kia lacked the consistency that I want from a starting center, and was non-existent during the playoffs.
If Kia’s stay isn't going to be a major hit on the Mystics’ payroll, and she doesn’t mind being a backup, having her as a sub would be a luxury. Vaughn still does produce good numbers on average, and that can't be overlooked. But otherwise, I don't think she is a necessity for them going forward.
Sara: Kia Vaughn is not a starting caliber center, and it's time to give Stefanie Dolson that role. She's inconsistent, like Monique Currie, but I think she would be great off the bench. Her blocking and rebounding skills are still needed.
AL: I'm on the fence, given my desire to see the Mystics get even younger, but you aren't going to find too many centers who can produce like she can. If Vaughn stays, she should be willing to come off the bench and she'll still get her minutes. Dolson has been a very foul and turnover-prone player during her rookie year, and it wouldn't hurt to have someone else at that position who can also do a good job, but is not as foul or turnover prone.
Part 3 of our roundtable will be released next week. We will talk about the rebuild's progress so far, and when or whether they can be an Eastern Conference championship caliber team down the road.