The Washington Mystics have went through some major roster turnovers in the past several seasons. But on Tuesday, they made some concrete steps toward creating some continuity to the roster as they exercised fourth-year team options on guard Tayler Hill and forward Emma Meesseman. Hill was the fourth overall draft pick in 2013 and Meesseman was the 19th pick in the same year.
The Mystics also made some announcements about their training camp roster, where 2014 team members Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Kalana Greene were offered invites. In addition, they extended an invite to Kayla Thornton, who was part of their 2014 training camp roster.
Ruffin-Pratt enters her third season with the Mystics after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent before the 2013 season. In the 2014 season, she averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, while also scoring a career-high 18 points in a road game against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 17. In addition, she also started six games for Washington.
Greene enters her sixth season in the WNBA and her second year with the Mystics. She saw action in 20 games and only averaged 0.8 points per game. Thornton is currently playing in Israel.
Quick Analysis on Hill's and Meesseman's options
Let's start with Meesseman, who made some significant improvements in 2014 where she averaged 10.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Since she entered the league in 2013 when she was only 20 years old, in some ways, you can consider the 2015 season to be Meesseman's first WNBA season, from the standpoint that she would be the same age as most rookies and has a leg up on them due to some early playing experience. Either way, she could develop into an All-Star for the Mystics, despite the fact that she was an unheralded second round pick just two seasons ago.
With Hill, her player option acknowledges what what we have believed all along: Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault still sees her as a major part of the team's future.
Don't take my word for it though. Here is what Thibault said:
It is an easy decision to pick up the 2016 option for Emma and Tayler. They are a big part of what we are trying to build here for the future of this team. We are looking forward to continued improvement by both of these good young players.
I know it's PR-speak, but as we've stated numerous times, Hill is the team's only draft lottery pick from any year under contract. In order for their current rebuild to be a success sooner rather than later, it is imperative that she works out. Sure, there will be a time to pull the plug on her if she continues to suck on the court, which a growing number of fans want because Bria Hartley had the rookie season Hill was supposed to have among other things.
But in a year where the Mystics are still trying to figure out who their long term players are, it makes sense to give her a chance to grow. It's not like Hill will get that same opportunity anywhere else.
Quick Analysis on Ruffin-Pratt's and Greene's re-signings
I have no problem with Ruffin-Pratt re-signing, but she was also a reserved player, or someone who didn't have enough years of experience in the league to be a restricted free agent. Therefore, she had to re-sign with the Mystics if she wanted to play in the WNBA this season. That said, I always liked her effort on the defensive end. Her offense, while still absent at times, did show signs of improvement, like her performance during the aforementioned Sparks game last season.
Ruffin-Pratt's re-signing to at least a training camp spot should also be no surprise, because she is the team's offseason ambassador. In fact, Ruffin-Pratt and Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault will be at T.C. Williams High School in nearby Alexandria, Virginia (YES, IT'S THE 'REMEMBER THE TITANS' SCHOOL) to watch their team play. T.C. also happens to be where Ruffin-Pratt went to high school:
As for Greene, while her announcement to the training camp roster may go directly against one of my suggestions for the Mystics' offseason yesterday, she isn't guaranteed to be on the team. Therefore, I don't have much of a problem with it either way.
None of the Mystics' moves on Tuesday were blockbusters, but most of them were moves that were to be expected. Even though it's unlikely that Washington figures to be an Eastern Conference contender in 2015, we are seeing some signs that they are doing the right thing by identifying and committing to younger players who are safer bets to be with the franchise for years to come.