On Thursday, Bullets Forever managing editor Albert Lee, BF editor Diamond Holton, BF writer Lyndie Wood, Swish Appeal site manager Zack Ward and SA writer Eric Nemchock participated in a roundtable about Emma Meesseman’s time with the Washington Mystics on BF.
Now we present the second part of our roundtable, which focuses on Meesseman’s future with the Chicago Sky.
Meesseman may be able to play the entire season in Chicago since the World Cup won’t happen until after the season. If she can play the whole season, should she start, or come off the bench for Candace Parker and Azura Stevens?
Zack Ward: I like Parker at the 4 and Stevens at the 5 better than Meesseman at the 4 and Parker at the 5. Meesseman has been a starter most of her career, but came off the bench when she won Finals MVP, so she has a good history as a reserve. I think Meesseman is a better player than Stevens though and will be a big part of what the Sky do.
Lyndie Wood: I agree with Zack. She should come off the bench, but she’ll likely finish a lot of games.
Eric Nemchock: I think a lot of it will be matchup-dependent. James Wade has not been afraid to shake up his lineups if they’re not performing, and Stevens’ and Meesseman’s games are vastly different. In particular, Stevens played a crucial role during Chicago’s championship run in defending Jonquel Jones and Brittney Griner, but she was also on a minutes restriction for much of the season as she worked her way back from injury. I think they’ll both be somewhere between 24 and 28 minutes per game, and I don’t have a preference as to who should start.
Diamond Holton: I’m not picking Meesseman over arguably the GOAT in Candace Parker. She’s going to have to come off the bench if she is only playing power forward. I would put her over Azura Stevens though slightly.
Do you think assistant coach Ann Wauters gets through to Meesseman to consistently play at her 2019 playoff and Belgian Cat form? Her 2020 season wasn’t particularly great. And could Wauters’ presence help influence Meesseman to stay in Chicago longer term?
Zack: Yes to both. I think Wauters and Meesseman will have a strong connection, both being from Belgium.
Eric: I’m very curious about what was going on behind the scenes, because I don’t think Chicago hires Wauters if it doesn’t think it has a legit shot at landing Meesseman in free agency. Assistant coaches tend to come and go pretty often, though, so I’d hesitate to look past this season until we know the details of Meesseman’s contract.
Albert: I agree with Eric 100 percent on his thinking. How did they get Wauters so quickly?
If Meesseman is primarily a sixth woman, do you think it is still possible for her to be named a WNBA All-Star or perhaps even All-WNBA? For context, if she played the entire 2019 season in Washington and played as a sixth woman, she may have received both honors.
Zack: I think so. If you can name a bench player the MVP of a five-game series, then you should be able to name them an All-Star or All-WNBA for a full regular season.
Eric: I think that would be difficult. It’s very rare to see bench players be named All-Stars and even rarer be named All-WNBA. There are a lot of big names at Meesseman’s position who will be playing bigger roles for their respective teams.
Albert: Agree with Eric on this one. Unless a sixth woman is also playing over 30 minutes a game and more than the starter(s) above her, it will be difficult to see Meesseman get an All-WNBA team mention. Maybe the Europeans help vote her in as an All-Star though.
Julie Allemand is also coming to Chicago via trade, giving the Sky two rotation-level players from Belgium. Assuming both Meesseman and Allemand intend to stay with the Sky long term, how do you see them working out in the rotation?
Zack: I’m really high on Julie Allemand. A 47.8 percent 3-point percentage and 5.8 assists per game as a rookie!? What’s not to like? I see both her and Meesseman being big parts of the rotation.
Eric: If both players intend to stay in Chicago then I think their roles with the Sky will be huge. I’m not sure how much longer Allie Quigley or Candace Parker plans on playing, but there’s a very plausible scenario in which neither player is with the Sky next season, which would likely make Allemand and Meesseman starters by default.
Albert: The French league where Allemand plays ends in June if I’m not mistaken, so that will affect how much time she can play on the team. That said, a Meesseman and Allemand one-two punch could be quite potent on other teams’ reserve units, assuming both play as reserves.
Here’s a what-if: When Elena Delle Donne was traded to the Mystics in 2017, the Sky originally wanted to get Meesseman and their first round pick, which was No. 2 that year. What do you think would have happened to Chicago if they had Meesseman instead of Delle Donne that year? And how do you feel now that Meesseman has signed with the Sky outright while they still keep Kahleah Copper, who was actually traded?
Eric: It definitely would have changed Chicago’s draft strategy, if nothing else. Had they been able to pry Meesseman away from the Mystics, maybe they would have drafted Allisha Gray at No. 2, which in turn could have affected their draft strategy in 2018. Regarding Copper, she was actually the piece I was most excited to get in return for Delle Donne because I had watched her play in the Big Ten and knew how dynamic of an athlete she was. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching her and Meesseman team up this season.
Albert: I think Meesseman would have found it difficult to be in Chicago in 2017 where she’d be expected to fill in much of Delle Donne’s role, though not completely. But she would also have missed part of the season for EuroBasket. Since the Sky were a lottery-bound team for a couple of years after the EDD trade, that could have also made Meesseman leave Chicago sooner if the Cats still played as well as they did in EuroBasket and the World Cup.
The Sky have at least four players with European citizenship: Meesseman and Allemand for Belgium, Vandersloot and Quigley for Hungary (at least for FIBA purposes), and Astou Ndour-Fall for Spain (assuming she returns). On the bright side, could the Sky be “Europe’s WNBA team” going forward? But on the other hand, assuming all five want to be back for 2023, doesn’t this set up Chicago for some leaner times when EuroBasket happens?
Zack: The Mystics saw how hard it is when one of your key players doesn’t play every season in the WNBA, so I’m going to have to focus on the negative side of this. But Meesseman and Allemand are still great players.
Eric: One thing I’ve learned as a WNBA fan is how important it is for coaches and GMs to have international ties — not just coaching experience or friends in high places but also legitimate trust in international basketball circles. James Wade has all of that, which is a major reason why Meesseman will be coming to Chicago in the first place. At the same time, I think you have to weigh each player’s circumstances differently because no two national programs operate in exactly the same way. It’s just something WNBA coaches need to deal with year in and year out.
Albert: Given the current way the WNBA and FIBA run their respective seasons and tournaments, I’d be wary of the Sky committing to at least three Europeans (not including the Vanderquigs backcourt). If the WNBA and FIBA had an agreement to pause the season for continental tournaments like EuroBasket and the AmeriCup, that would change my opinion to be more optimistic like Eric is. In fact, I’ve written about that on both BF and SA over the years.
Diamond: I agree with Zack on this. I understand the commitment but it’s going to hurt the Sky in the long run. It sounds dope to be a WNBA team with many of Europe’s basketball sensations. But at the same time, it’ll possibly hurt the team in a way.