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WNBA Finals 2018: Breaking down the Storm and Mystics as they prepare to battle for the WNBA Championship

Let’s break down the storylines the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics have heading into the Finals!

Ariel Atkins and the Washington Mystics will go for a WNBA championship against the Storm before they truly become the next WNBA dynasty.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Seattle Storm play the Washington Mystics in the 2018 WNBA Finals. Here are the schedule and the storylines heading into this Finals.

Game Schedule

  • Game 1 — Washington @ Seattle: Friday, September 7, 9 p.m. ET, KeyArena, ESPNews
  • Game 2 — Washington @ Seattle: Sunday, September 9, 3:30 p.m. ET, KeyArena, ABC
  • Game 3 — Seattle @ Washington: Wednesday, September 12, EagleBank Arena, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Game 4* — Seattle @ Washington: Friday, September 14, EagleBank Arena, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Game 5* — Washington @ Seattle: Sunday, September 16, KeyArena 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

*If necessary

Storylines for the Finals

The series features superstars in the beginning, prime and twilight of their careers

The Storm are back in the Finals after an eight-year absence. The only player from the 2010 team to still be in green and gold is Sue Bird — and she’s presumably in the last years of her career. Lauren Jackson retired years ago, but Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd have taken her place and are poised to be the Jackson and Bird of the future.

Meanwhile, the Mystics have Elena Delle Donne, who just turned 29 and is in the prime of her career. No one else is really a superstar, but the Mystics otherwise have a cast that works about as well with her as any other team’s with a “one superstar” setup.

Matchups in the backcourt and frontcourt make for some great must-see TV

In the backcourt, expect Bird and Kristi Toliver to be trading threes and passes at times. Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins are defense-first players who can also contain Bird and Loyd.t

And in the frontcourt, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart are very similar players: lanky forwards with the ability to rebound in the post and stretch defenses with their shooting. Even at the center position, LaToya Sanders and Natasha Howard are smaller and lankier than a typical post, but they are still able to score efficiently and play great post defense.

Seattle wants to win at least one more for Bird

Granted, I’m high on anointing the Storm as the next WNBA dynasty. They have Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd as their young duo while Natasha Cloud and Jordin Canada round out their core young contributors. But if there’s a reason they want to win a title this year, they’d like to do so with franchise player Sue Bird still playing at a high level, even though she is the WNBA’s oldest active player.

The Mystics hope to walk in the Wizards’ shoes, circa 1978 against the Sonics

If you live in Washington, DC and were old enough to see the Washington Wizards (then the Bullets) win the 1978 NBA Championship against the then-Seattle Supersonics, this series seems like the stars are aligning for Washington to win when the fat lady sings. (That’s a famous line that Bullets head coach Dick Motta said before the playoffs that season.)

Washington will try to sneak in a title before the Breanna Stewart-era Storm get their first

The Mystics will come into this series as underdogs, even if they are more playoff-experienced that the Storm (minus Bird). The bottom line is that they don’t have the superstar power to match up with the Storm if both teams are in their prime today.

And that’s exactly what the Mystics will hope to take advantage of.

The Mystics and their core are in their collective primes. They are not going to get much better than they are at this very moment. Delle Donne is 29. Kristi Toliver and LaToya Sanders are on the wrong side of 30. Natasha Cloud and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt’s ceilings aren’t surpassing Stewart’s and Loyd’s. Ariel Atkins’ ceiling is as high as anyone’s, but it’s probably not as high as Delle Donne’s.

And Emma Meesseman has the highest ceiling of any Mystics player and has a lot of room to grow. But her WNBA days are likely numbered given how Belgian basketball has improved.

Sure, the Mystics have a little more room to grow next season. But by then, Seattle will be much better than they are right now. And by 2020, Seattle will likely be like the Lynx were earlier this decade while the Aces and possibly the Wings will surpass the Mystics talent-wise. The Mystics are doing the right thing to make “win now” moves right now, like trading Tayler Hill for Aerial Powers, among others.

None of this is meant to insinuate that the Mystics need to blow it up and rebuild in 2019. They shouldn’t, because their championship window will still be open. But the Mystics are going to have a harder time winning a championship later than they will now.

Washington will never be a superteam given their current situation. They will never have multiple first overall picks as a contending WNBA team. But that’s okay.

Some team has to win a championship when one team’s dynastic run ends (Lynx and Sparks) and another’s (Storm) is bound to begin. Given how things have been and how big a superstar Delle Donne is, why can’t the Mystics win a title this season?