Heading into the 2015 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile, the title is as up for grabs as ever. Each of the eight contenders can state their case for why they will take home the trophy come October. With that in mind, WNBA.com is profiling all eight one-by-one as the Sept. 17 tip-off approaches.
Mike Thibault and the WNBA postseason are almost synonymous. The league’s winningest coach has been to the playoffs now in 11 of the 13 seasons in which he’s been a head coach.
But he’s yet to bring home a WNBA championship. This season, though, with a defensive-minded roster full of players who can contribute in a number of ways, the Mystics are not to be counted out.
Here are three reasons why the Washington Mystics will win the WNBA championship.
Thibault has always been known to preach a gospel of defense to his teams, and this year’s version of the Mystics has taken that message to heart.
Their rotations have been crisp all season long and they are third (97.9) in the league in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), per Basketball-Reference.com, behind only the Lynx and the Liberty.
A continued focus on defense will be important heading into a matchup against the league’s top defensive stalwarts in New York.
Meesseman-Dolson frontcourt combo.
Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson made WNBA All-Star Game debuts this year and have both put together phenomenal seasons. Meesseman has displayed a feathery touch to go along with a composed and fluid presence on defense.
Dolson has continued to grow her game in her second season as a pro and has shined in her first stint as a regular starter.
Their abilities on the block are well document at this point, but it’s the work they do at the free-throw line and beyond that has been a major benefit this year. Both players’ ability to knock down three-point baskets – something Meesseman has put on display just recently – only helps stretch the floor and keep opposing defenses honest.
The Mystics may be the four seed in the Eastern Conference, but their rotation is as talented as any of the other playoff teams. No longer can it be said that the Mystics don’t have a “true star.” Mike Thibault insists that they do, be it Emma Meesseman, Stefanie Dolson, or Ivory Latta.
Thibault’s rotation may shorten in the postseason, but he has his fair share of options. Even rookie Ally Mallot, who had played limited minutes until recently, has come on strong at the end of the season.
The coaching staff moved her to the small forward position, and she’s taken all of it in stride, learning the position and translating her new knowledge to on-court success.
Washington’s depth presents them with the opportunity to keep bodies fresh in what will be a long grind from the four seed to bringing home the WNBA championship.