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2024 WNBA Free Agency: Get ready for the Washington Mystics rebuild

After being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs again, the Washington Mystics are expected to move on from Elena Delle Donne. What does this mean for the direction of the team?

Dallas Wings v Washington Mystics
How different will the Washington Mystics’ core look in 2024?
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Washington Mystics are at a crossroads. After being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, the team now has to make some decisions surrounding the futures of the core players of the team.

The big move was the Mystics coring Elena Delle Donne this past week. What does this decision say about the team’s other potential moves and team-building strategy?

Facts and figures*

Players under contract (contract status; 2024 salary)

  • Ariel Atkins (protected veteran; $200,000)
  • Brittney Sykes (protected veteran; $190,000)
  • Myisha Hines-Allen (protected veteran; $180,200)
  • Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (unprotected; $97,850)
  • Shakira Austin (unprotected; $80,943)
  • Queen Egbo (unprotected; $74,398)

Free agents (type; 2023 salary)

  • Elena Delle Donne (unrestricted free agent; $234,350) [cored 1/14]
  • Natasha Cloud (unrestricted free agent; $190,000)
  • Tianna Hawkins (unrestricted free agent; $74,305)
  • Li Meng (reserved free agent; $62,285) [QO extended 1/11]

Total salary of free agents: $560,940

Total team salary: $823,391

Cap space: $639,809

Unsigned draftees (2024 salary)

  • Txell Alarcon ($63,532)

2024 WNBA Draft picks (2024 salary)

  • Round 1, No. 6 ($73,439)
  • Round 2, No. 21 ($67,249)
  • Round 3, No. 30 ($64,154)


WNBA 2023 Playoffs - Washington Mystics v New York Liberty
Was the 2023 first-round sweep the last time Elena Delle Donne would wear a Washington Mystics jersey?
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Washington Mystics likely are headed in a different direction this offseason. Since retaining key members of the 2019 championship core, the results haven’t been there. This is partially due to injury, but also age. Delle Donne is 34 and will be entering her 10th season.

The old saying, “Trade a player a year early, rather than a year late” rings true for Washington. It’s likely Delle Donne gets traded this year. The front office has been preparing for this. Last April, they traded away the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft for a second-round pick in 2024 and a first rounder in 2025. The move gives the team a sense of direction both this season and next.

If Delle Donne’s desire is to be traded, the Mystics could realistically get back a decent haul that could position the team to still be competitive without her. Of course, the team still has to re-sign Natasha Cloud, Tianna Hawkins and Li Meng—if that’s their desire.

Hawkins is coming off arguably her best season; she filled in for the injured Shakira Austin nicely, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in her 19 games as a starter. As always, Cloud was exceptional on defense; she also led the team in assists for the third-straight season. Meng was integral to helping Washington maximize the spacing for an otherwise poor shooting team.

Washington Mystics v New York Liberty - Game Two
Expect the Washington Mystics to re-sign Natasha Cloud.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Washington has the money to retain all of them, but this year’s free agent class is pretty impressive. Although I don’t expect Washington to be in line for the premier players, it’s certainly worth mentioning they could try and make a push for a star, assuming their intent isn’t to rebuild.

Alternatively, the Mystics own the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft. If they don’t trade it, they could be in line to draft someone like Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson, UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, Utah’s Alissa Pili or LSU’s Angel Reese at power forward to replace Delle Donne.

Rebuilds are not always the most exciting experience for a fan, but, if the Mystics handle this offseason correctly, they might be able to expedite the process and return to competitive status as soon as next season.

*Thanks to Her Hoop Stats for all salary numbers.