Washington, D.C. — It’s officially official.
Elena Delle Donne will be heading to the nation’s capital as the newest edition to the Washington Mystics. And while this deal gives Delle Donne what she wanted, it’s arguably even a better deal for the Mystics.
Last season, I wrote about the Mystic’s consistency problems:
“Poor shooting, or poor ball movement, or some questionable calls, and Washington becomes their own worst enemy. When they get down, they are out. At times it’s like watching a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The Washington Mystics ended the 2016 season 13-21.
Given the raw talent of the Mystics, this was rather surprising. They won five fewer games than in 2015, and given the young talent on the team at the time, (seven players were 25 or younger) one would think that 2016 would lead to more improvements and give them a chance to catch New York, Chicago, or Indiana in the East.
To anyone who watched the Mystics throughout the year, including their head coach Mike Thibault, it was clear that consistency was perhaps their biggest issue. The Mystics strategy and roster did not change much from 2015 to 2016. Heading into the off-season it was blatantly clear that the same approach would not work in 2017.
The perfect storm was at play to acquire Delle Donne and potentially alter the franchise. Delle Donne was unhappy in Chicago, and Washington was clearly eager to deal their players even without her.
Prior to the Delle Donne trade, they sent veteran Kia Vaughn and guard Bria Hartley to the New York Liberty in a three-team trade to free up salary space. At that point, it seemed to be a no-brainer to send Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper to Chicago for Delle Donne.
Ushering in Delle Donne offers a glimpse into the new era of basketball in Washington. Trading away their primary low post players while adding Delle Donne and keeping Emma Meesseman shows that the Mystics are likely looking to play a faster-paced game—one where the post players have guard-like and shot creating ability.
In making these moves, the Mystics are going to be able to take full advantage of how the game of basketball is changing.
They’re also adding a high-octane scorer. The Mystics leading scorers last season were Tayler Hill (15.4 PPG) and Meesseman (15.2 PPG). Delle Donne averaged 21.5 PPG last season, and her career average is 20.5 PPG.
Delle Donne will likely become the leading scorer in Washington D.C., and while that may be an adjustment at first for her teammates, she will be adding a key element to their offense as a scorer who has the ability to consistently dominate, create shots, and alter opposing defenses.
Down the line, this could put them on par to become a higher scoring team and compete with teams like the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx.
One of the Mystics big goals is also to improve rebounding. Their best rebounder last season was Meesseman, who averaged 5.6 RPG. Delle Donne averaged 7 RPG last season despite injury, and 8.4 rebounds the season prior. If she has another year like 2015, she could make a huge dent each game in the Mystic’s goal to outrebound their competition each night.
Most importantly, Delle Donne is also a player who knows how to be successful at all levels, and how to win. Given the fact that she is now a veteran, she will likely be the key leader immediately upon her arrival. With her natural abilities, she will have the opportunity to help Washington solve their consistency problems.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties involved, and on the surface, it seems that the Mystics are solving a lot of their problems over night.
Of course, it’s impossible to predict the future. But it’s going to be a fun summer of basketball in Washington.