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2023 WNBA season preview: Can Washington still contend for a title?

In an ever-changing WNBA, can Elena Delle Donne and a strong core be enough to compete for it all?

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx
Natasha Cloud
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

How far can the Washington Mystics go?

That’s the question head coach Eric Thibault and his staff are trying to figure out entering the 2023 campaign.

“We’re going to do everything we can to play with the type of fire and passion that they expect and they deserve.” Eric Thibault said during his initial press conference.

The fire and passion were there for the Mystics last season. They had a successful regular season campaign ending with a 22-14 record, good for the fifth seed in the WNBA, but their season ended when they lost to the Seattle Storm in the first round in a two-game sweep.

After the season, Mike Thibault retired from coaching and Eric was promoted to head coach.

The roster underwent changes, with former L.A. Sparks players Brittney Sykes, Amanda Zahui B. and Kristi Toliver joining the team. In fact, entering training camp with only six contracts guaranteed, Washington has plenty of flexibility and lots of decisions to make on how they will use the remaining five spots (coach Thibault has already stated he will only be using 11 spots, leaving the 12th roster spot open to start the season).

What will the latest iteration of the Mystics look like in 2023? We already got a brief preview in the preseason. Washington lost to Minnesota 72-69 but got good performances from Elena Delle Donne, who scored 11 points in her 12-minute shift. Tianna Hawkins had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting to lead all Mystics players. Key players were out for Washington, including Sykes, but it was still an encouraging sign for a team looking to make a deep playoff run. E. Thibault spoke with the media postgame about his team’s performance during his first game as the Mystics’ head coach.

“We had good stretches and stretches that were a struggle, you know we let the bench group finish the game for the last several eight-ten minutes, but that’s the group that also got us the lead in the second quarter. So, I probably can go up and down the roster and you know, pull some good stuff and some stuff to work on from everybody but I think the biggest thing is we kind of kept our minutes where we wanted them and everybody got a little game feel back.”

When you have a player like Delle Donne on your roster, you always have a chance of making noise. Adding an elite guard defender like Brittney Sykes will undoubtedly help and if Natasha Cloud takes another leap in her development, maybe Washington can.

It will be difficult to win it all though because of the superteams in Las Vegas and New York.