The Washington Mystics not only posted a franchise-best 22-12 record last season, but they did so while playing the entire season short a player. Not just any player, but four-time All-Star and starting guard Alana Beard. Somehow, despite starting the season with what appeared to be odds stacked against them, the team centered itself on team play and took the No. 1 seed in the East into the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately it ended there, as the Atlanta Dream cruised by the Mystics in a 2-0 series sweep.
Similarities are not lost between last season and the upcoming season, as the Mystics will tip-off 2011 without the likes of Monique Currie, a player who stepped up in the wake of Beard’s injury and experienced increased in points per game, as well as free-throw and three-point percentage. Much like Beard, Currie’s spot on the roster and cap space will remain on the books for the Mystics in the upcoming season.
Trudi Lacey, watching from the sidelines as an assistant coach in 2010, now has the responsibility as coach and general manager to right the wrongs from last season and steer the Mystics’ ship toward the WNBA Finals. The best option to do so may come from this year’s draft. The biggest challenge comes in trying to find that improvement with such a low draft pick.
“We’re looking to take the best player available at 11,” said Lacey. “We’d like to get some depth in the post position, but not knowing exactly what players will be available at 11 we’re looking at the overall best player available.”
In the days and hours leading up to draft day, the value of Minnesota’s fourth overall pick may have some teams licking their chops in an effort to get closer to securing the player they want to bring into the fold. Washington may be one of those teams, as Lacey admits the Mystics will certainly be looking to move up if the right opportunity presents itself.
While securing a post player remains an area of focus for the Mystics, it doesn’t exactly make or break the team if they fail to walk away with their desired pick in the draft. Options are plentiful in camp already, and a lot of that has to do with working with players already on staff.
“Obviously missing any player, but a player of Monique’s caliber, it will take some adjustment,” said Lacey. “I do see it as an opportunity for Marissa Coleman to step into the player we all know that she can be and fill that void for us.”
Coleman enters her third season in 2011 and is coming off a year in which she averaged 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. While those numbers may appear low on paper for a player who averaged nearly 20 minutes per game last season, Lacey remains confident that Coleman will follow a similar route to that of Currie and really find her play this year.
One can’t possibly consider post players on the Mystics without taking a look at Crystal Langhorne. “Lang,” as she’s known to teammates and coaches, has continued to improve since her 2009 Most Improved Player award. Last season she showed continued growth across the board in a number of categories, including a 4.3 ppg increase from 2010 and a solid 1.8 leap in rpg. For a 6-foot-1 post player she may appear undersized, but nothing over the past two seasons indicates that is the case. Strong moves in the paint, positioning and quicker footwork remain the keys to Lang’s success.
“Lang is just a phenomenal player, a phenomenal person. I’m so glad that she is finally getting the recognition that she deserves because nobody works harder than [her],” said Lacey. “Our desire is for her to improve on the defensive end of the floor so that we’re able to change our defenses more than we’ve done in the past. And also I’d like to improve her face-up skills on the offensive end.”
Lacey knows her players well, even if her role with the team has changed. Her ability to assess her staff, identify weaknesses and scout talent will all come into play at the draft.
The Mystics’ new GM and coach has a position in mind. She has a pick in hand. The only question is, who’s it going to be?
-- Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
|6. Jacinta Monroe||2. Marissa Coleman||6. Crystal Langhorne|
|14. Jenna Smith||23. Camille LeNoir||20. Lindsey Pluimer|
|18. Shanavia Dowdell||24. Jelena Milovanovic||34. Krystal Vaughn|
|30. Alexis Gray-Lawson||28. Josephine Owino|