The Washington Mystics are in a very critical situation headed into the 2023 season. The core of Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud is secured for at least one more season, and with some cap space to add veterans to improve the offense and the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, this offseason is very crucial for them if they want to get back to 2019 championship-level status.
By the Numbers*
Free agents (type) (2022 average salary):
- Alysha Clark (unrestricted) ($183,000)
- Elizabeth Williams (unrestricted) ($90,000)
- Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (unrestricted) ($72,000)
- Tianna Hawkins (unrestricted) ($72,000)
- Rui Machida (unrestricted) ($60,000)
Total average salary of free agents: $477,000
Total team salary: $848,034
Cap space: $572,466
After getting bounced by the Seattle Storm in last year’s playoffs, former head coach Mike Thibault told reporters in his exit interview that roster changes are important to be made to improve the team. He was right, as the Mystics struggled to create any offense when Elena Delle Donne went to the bench. The offensive struggles were seen throughout the regular season and were amplified in the brief two-game series against Seattle; however, because of the magnificent defense, the Mystics still managed to contend with the best teams in the league. This offseason, finding shooters and wing defenders is imperative for a team looking to make another run at a championship while the core is still together.
The Mystics having the fourth overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft is crucial in determining how the team approaches this offseason. If the Mystics decide to keep the pick, it will be on a very affordable contract estimated at just over $74,000.
This free agency class is absolutely loaded, headlined by names like Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Diana Taurasi. Given the cap space the Mystics have, realistically they could be able to go after one of these marquee names while filling out the rest of the roster with role players who can shoot and defend on the lower minimum salary.
Of course Washington isn’t forced to move in this direction. There are free agents that they could go after that won’t demand as much money but can still help the team’s offense, some of those names being Diamond DeShields, Rebecca Allen and Riquana Williams.
Washington may want to re-sign Alysha Clark, who was one the anchors of last year’s dominant defense. She had one of her worst shooting years from three, but was coming off a foot injury from the previous season. In the three seasons before coming to Washington, Clark was shooting 47 percent from three. She signed a one-year deal for $183,000 last summer. It’s unlikely that she demands that much money this summer, but she will still certainly draw lots of attention from other teams looking to make a splash in free agency. If she can return to her previous level of marksmanship from behind the arc, Washington will see great improvement in their offensive results.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was another player from last year’s team that performed well. She really came along during the last month of the season, averaging eight points on 38 percent shooting from three. Expect Washington to look to resign her to improve the bench scoring.
Given the cap space Washington has, they have many options to approach this year’s free agency. With the fourth pick in the draft, Washington could be looking to draft 6-foot-3 Maryland guard Diamond Miller. This season she is averaging 18 points and six rebounds on 46 percent shooting from the field. The 3-point shooting hasn’t been a strength, but her ability to pressure defenses by attacking the rim has created many open looks for her teammates. Maryland is one of the 15-best 3-point shooting teams in college basketball this year.
If Washington does decide to pursue a big name free agent this summer, Emma Meesseman could be the name to look out for. Meesseman is no stranger to the D.C. area. She spent the first seven years of her career with the franchise and won Finals MVP with the Mystics in 2019. The Mystics could really use her isolation scoring and lethal 3-point shooting if they hope to make a deep playoff run. Chicago signed Meesseman to a one-year deal worth $185,000 last summer so expect her value to be around that range this offseason as well.
The Mystics’ free agency direction will likely be determined by what they do with their No. 4 pick in this year’s draft and how they address the contract situations of their core. Delle Donne is getting older, but she showed that she has something left in the tank and is worth building another championship team around. Regardless of which direction the team decides to take regarding free agency, offense is going to be the number one priority so expect money to be spent to address it.