Washington Mystics: 2006 Preview
It has been an active off-season for the Washington Mystics, a team still seeking the right ingredients for postseason success after falling a tiebreaker short of the playoffs with a 16-18 mark in 2005.
With only three playoff appearances in eight seasons, Washington has struggled to field a consistent winner. To address those concerns, the team's priority was fortifying the most important position on the floor.
They've never had an elite point guard, so the Mystics were willing to trade pay a steep price to acquire Nikki Teasley. Teasley, 27, led the Sparks to the 2002 WNBA Championship as a rookie, and boasts career averages of 9.0 points and 5.3 assists per game.
To get her, the Mystics swapped first-round picks with the Sparks and parted with two starters; Muriel Page, the last link to the original Mystics team, and Temeka Johnson, the WNBA's Rookie of the Year in 2005.
In Washington, Teasley is reunited with former Sparks teammates Delisha Milton-Jones and Latasha Byears, who returns to the WNBA after two summers away. With three of the top six scorers from the 2002 WNBA Champions, the Mystics are turning to players who are proven winners. They added yet another in veteran small forward Crystal Robinson, who played in 34 playoff games in seven seasons with the New York Liberty.
Robinson, 5-11, is a tough defender and career 38.3 percent three-point shooter who fills the void left left by the departure of free agent Charlotte Smith-Taylor. Robinson figures to start in the frontcourt alongside Milton-Jones and center Chasity Melvin, coming off one of her best professional seasons (11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
The backcourt of Teasley and Alana Beard is one of the league's most formidable. The 5-11 Beard is one of the game's top young players. In her second season, she improved her numbers to 14.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. She becomes more dangerous alongside Teasley.
Washington's 4-6 finish a year ago might have been attributable to a lack of depth. Page and Coco Miller (re-signed by the Mystics) were the team's only dependable reserves. As a consequence, four Washington starters averaged more than 30 minutes per game, which might explain the team's drop in field goal percentage - from 44 percent to 41 - during the final month of the season.
Ideally, that situation has been addressed with the signing of Byears, the continued development of young players like guard Laurie Koehn and center Nakia Sanford and the arrival of draftees Tamara James and Nikki Blue.
James, a 5-10 guard/forward, averaged 20.0 points and 6.7 rebounds during a stellar four-year career at Miami (Fla.) She is the leading scorer in 'Canes history. Blue, a 5-6 point guard, is only the fifth woman to earn first-team All-Pac 10 honors in four straight seasons. She averaged 15.2 points and 5.1 assists at UCLA.
Richie Adubato returns to the sideline for a second year. Amazingly, Adubato is the eighth coach in the history of a franchise beginning its ninth season in the WNBA. The Mystics should benefit from some rare stability in the coach's chair.
If the depth is there, Adubato's team could be among the league's most improved.