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WNBA Team Preview: Washington Mystics (#6)

The Mystics made their first WNBA semifinals appearance in 15 years. Though they won’t have Emma Meesseman this year, they could do it again.

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Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics Stephen Gosling/Getty

When Elena Delle Donne was traded to the Washington Mystics in February 2017, some people believed the team could win a championship in her first year.

Unfortunately, the Mystics had an up-and-down 18-16 regular season where Emma Meesseman missed all of June due to play for Belgium in EuroBasket Women 2017. When she returned in July, Tayler Hill tore her ACL, and Delle Donne missed a month due to an ankle injury.

Washington was able to advance to the WNBA semifinals for the first time since 2002, thanks to key performances by their role players. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt single-handedly stopped a furious Dallas Wings’ comeback in the first round while Kristi Toliver shot the lights out in the second round against the New York Liberty. But they were ultimately swept by the Minnesota Lynx.

This season, the Mystics hope to build on that long playoff run with some more regular season success, despite the absence of Emma Meesseman. Can they do it?

What to expect

Familiar faces

Most of the Mystics’ core players, like Delle Donne, Hill, Toliver, Ruffin-Pratt and Krystal Thomas are under contract this season.

But the Mystics did re-sign some of its key contributors who were approaching free agency, including Allison Hightower and Asia Taylor. Finally, Washington signed Devereaux Peters in free agency.

Notable newbies

The Mystics selected Ariel Atkins with the seventh pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft. She could be the 3-and-D player Washington has coveted for quite some time.

But, in the meantime, the team may look to Monique Currie to fill in that role short-term. Currie signed with Washington in free agency for her second stint in Washington. LaToya Sanders, who missed the 2017 season due to injury, will return in 2018.

Biggest obstacles

Ultimately, the biggest obstacle the Mystics have is health. Last season didn’t go as planned due to injuries. And even this season, Hill will miss time until June because of her knee injury from last July.

The Mystics finished where they wanted to in 2017. But unlike most other teams in the middle of the playoff pack, Washington got worse on paper because of Meesseman’s absence. Many WNBA analysts will point to Washington’s 8-3 record without Meesseman, and its 10-13 record with her, as a reason she shouldn’t be considered an essential piece. But this stance should be viewed with skepticism because the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

The Mystics were healthy in the first half of the 2017 season and played very well. But Meesseman played the second half of the Mystics’ season with little help around her because other players were injured, while Toliver never came into form until the playoffs. This may be a hot take, but if Meesseman missed the entire 2017 season, the Mystics might have missed the postseason altogether.

Game zone

Preseason home opener

Mystics vs. Fever

Saturday May 12 at 7 p.m. EST

Carpenter Center in Newark, DE — Tickets

Season home opener

Mystics vs. Fever

Sunday May 20 at 1 p.m. EST

Capital One Arena — Tickets