WNBA Preview 2008:

Washington Mystics

WASHINGTON MYSTICS
Roster | 2008 Schedule
Head coach: Tree Rollins is entering his second season with the team.
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2008 PROJECTED STARTERS:
PG:
Nikki Blue
SG:
Alana Beard
SF:
Monique Currie
PF:
Taj McWilliams-Franklin
C:
Nakia Sanford
2008 DRAFT RESULTS:
Rd. 1:
Crystal Langhorne
Rd. 2:
Lindsey Pluimer
Rd. 3:
Krystal Vaughn
The Mystics' 2007 season featured a franchise-high eight-game losing streak, a coaching change, a major trade, an injury to its star player Alana Beard, and a furious run for the final playoff spot in the competitive Eastern Conference. The Mystics, who finished with a 16-18 record, fell just short of a postseason berth as New York took the fourth and final playoff spot in the East due to a tiebreaker.

WHAT WENT RIGHT


Beard
After their early season struggles, the Mystics came together under interim head coach Tree Rollins to nearly qualify for the postseason. Alana Beard led the way despite a nagging shoulder injury that would require offseason surgery. She averaged 18.8 points and 1.94 steals -- both team highs -- and was named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team and named an All-Star for the third consecutive year.

Joining Beard on the All-Star team was veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. After trading post presence Chasity Melvin to the Chicago Sky for swingman Monique Currie, Nakia Sanford was called on to step up and fill the hole in the middle. She responded by posting career highs in points (11.0) and rebounds (a team-high 7.1 per game).

WHAT WENT WRONG

The first three weeks of the season did not bring a win to the Mystics in 2007, but it did deliver plenty of turmoil. A strange eight-day stretch saw the Mystics complete the Currie-for-Melvin trade, saw veteran forward Crystal Robinson retire to join the coaching staff and saw head coach Richie Adubato resign two days later to be replaced by assistant coach Tree Rollins on an interim -- and eventually full-time -- basis. All the while, the losses kept mounting, putting the Mystics in too large of a hole to recover from in their hopes of making a return trip to the postseason.


Sanford
Rollins' campaign began with four straight losses. But after the team grew accustomed to the new coach and incorporated Currie and Sanford into their new roles, the team built some momentum.

While Beard played at an All-Star level, she was hampered with the nagging shoulder injury, which kept her from playing at full strength on a consistent basis.

The Mystics were also the worst shooting team in the league - connecting on only 40.4 percent of their shots. They were also near the bottom of the league in rebounds per game at 32.9.

LOOKING AHEAD

During the offseason, the Mystics retained both Beard and Sanford, signing both players to multiyear contracts, and brought in point guard Amber Jacobs as a free agent. Washington lost center Yelena Leuchanka in the Atlanta Dream expansion draft and recently parted ways with veteran point guard Nikki Teasley.

Beard, who underwent surgery on her left shoulder on Sept. 28 to repair a tear in her labrum, recently returned to the court and is expected to be back at full strength this season.

Last month, the Mystics traded veteran post DeLisha Milton-Jones for another veteran post player, Taj McWilliams-Franklin. After a busy winter in Israel and with the USA Basketball team, Taj will likely step into a starting role from the get-go and will be a leader on this largely young and inexperienced squad.


Blue
Nikki Blue may well step into the starting role left open by Teasley's departure, though Jacobs could give her a run for her money. Coco Miller and Tamara James will also contribute off the bench, while the currently dinged-up Bernice Mosby will spell Currie at the three.

Despite the relative lack of experience, Coach Rollins will be happy with his 2008 draft, having landed former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne in the first round. Langhorne is slightly undersized for a professional post player, but her skill and tenacity should make her a solid addition to the frontcourt. Lindsey Pluimer came the Mystics' way in Round 2, and the 6-4 forward brings versatility and outside shooting to the table, while third-rounder Krystal Vaughn has impressed so far in training camp.

The Mystics have a legitimate star in Beard, and if McWilliams-Franklin can stay healthy, Sanford can continue to improve and several of the youngsters can step up, Blue in particular, the Mystics will be fighting for a playoff spot in the East.