The Washington Mystics are bringing the band back together. On the first day of free agency, it was announced that Kristi Toliver would be returning to Washington. After departing from Washington for Los Angeles in 2021, she is returning to the team where she earned two All-star appearances and was a crucial member of the 2019 championship.
Toliver averaged 13 points on 36 percent shooting from three during the 2019 regular season. In the playoffs, the efficiency sky-rocketed to 40 percent from three on over five attempts per game. Her constant motion and threat to shoot from anywhere will be a welcome re-addition to the Mystics.
The Mystics also signed former Sparks guard Brittney Sykes to a three-year deal. This move is certainly on-brand with the Mystics’ team identity. A team that made its mark on defense last year adds on the league’s best perimeter defenders to pair with Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins, arguably the best defensive backcourt in the league.
Perhaps most important is Sykes’ ability to contribute to the offensive end. Last season she averaged almost 13 points and four assists. Offense was a glaring issue for the Mystics last year, so adding Sykes and Toliver is absolutely huge for a team looking to remain competitive despite the plethora of big offseason moves made by other teams across the association.
By the Numbers*
Total team salary: $1,133,034
Cap space: $287,466
In the original Mystics free agency review, we emphasized the importance of the Mystics acquiring some offensive help to surround Elena Delle Donne with. So far they’ve done a solid job, but they still have cap space to add a player or two.
It’s easy for the Mystics to look at everything that happened this offseason with Las Vegas and New York forming superteams and “call it quits,” but Washington is in a unique situation where they’ve added offense and bolstered a defensive unit that was best in the league last season.
Re-signing Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Tianna Hawkins was huge for Washington. Walker-Kimbrough started to develop a rhythm near the end of last season that showed how valuable she is in her role off the bench. Hawkins had her bright moments last season as well, including a 21-point outing against the then-defending champion Chicago Sky.
Relinquishing Rui Machida’s rights was not an easy decision. She was a fan favorite in Washington, but it is likely that size was an issue above all things. Given that she is undersized and not a big threat to shoot, her productivity could be very inconsistent at times. Her locker room presence will certainly be missed.
Losing Alysha Clark was somewhat expected given how much she was expected to make in free agency. Last season was a down year for her in Washington, but most of that was likely due to the Lisfranc injury she suffered back in 2021.
Of course, having the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft is critical to this entire offseason for Washington. Who they will select or whether they will trade it will certainly be on everyone’s mind. We all know who is going first overall, but after that, it gets interesting. Washington will certainly need wing depth with the departure of Clark, but the forward position is deep in this year’s draft, which means Mike Thibault will have plenty of options to consider.
Lastly, with the $287,000 in remaining cap space, Washington has the opportunity to go big here. Since they have brought back Toliver this offseason, it will be interesting if they decide to go all in on a reunion this summer and bring back 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman.
It’s unsure whether Meesseman will even play in this upcoming season given that she is also playing internationally, but Washington could absolutely use her scoring and shooting skill sets to pair next to Delle Donne. The 2019 Mystics posted the best regular season offense in WNBA history, and with six of the core players from that team still in DC, the last remaining piece to the puzzle is right in front of them.
On paper, the Mystics have improved from where they were last season. They’ve put themselves in a position to make a move near the draft, while also having the money to spend on a max player.