Season Preview 2010: Washington Mystics

Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith hope to provide ample scoring for the Mystics this season
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

Losing top-scorer Alana Beard for the season to ankle surgery before the Washington Mystics even opened up training camp for 2010 will undoubtedly have an altering impact on how head coach Julie Plank runs the court. Replacing a player who put up 15.9 PPG and 2.32 SPG over an average of about 32 minutes per game won�t come easy, but Plank isn�t exactly writing off the season just yet. In Beard�s absence, Plank suggests the Mystics will take a win-by-committee approach to the season, admitting that no one player could replace the four-time All-Star.

�I think we have people that can pick up the slack,� said a confident Plank. �Katie Smith and Marissa Coleman will get more minutes, Monique Currie, Matee Ajavon; I think this just presents an opportunity for our other players who are very talented.�

The perimeter remains a strong suit for the Mystics, providing depth, experience and flexibility for Plank�s playbook. Washington added 11-year veteran Katie Smith during the offseason, while guards Lindsey Harding, Matee Ajavon, Marissa Coleman and Nikki Blue all remain on the Mystics� perimeter, an existing chemistry any team welcomes with open arms when faced with losing a star player for the season. Harding finished the 2009 campaign with 12.8 PPG, second only behind Beard, and led the team in assists with 4.5 APG and average minutes played; just over 35. If Washington is looking for an anchor, then Harding may be the top candidate.

While Beard may not be on the court for the Mystics, she will be around the team, cheering them on and lending her experience to the mix any way she can. It isn�t ideal, but it�s the sort of contribution no coach can turn down.

�I really miss her,� said Plank. �She means a lot to not only the franchise but to me personally. I think she�s the ultimate competitor and she sets the tone for us on and off the floor. She�ll be around and very much a part of this team, obviously not on the court, but in spirit.�

Katie Smith is an obvious addition that should not be overlooked. But as credible as her veteran presence on the perimeter may be, the potential concern for Washington may be Smith's durability. Last season Smith suffered a herniated disc that ultimately kept her sidelined for Detroit's playoff run. Now, as she enters her 12th season in the league, the risk of missing a few games for regular wear and tear may be even higher than years prior.

Crystal Langhorne stepped up in a big way for Washington last season, only the second of her young career, and will no doubt pose as a go-to player down the middle. During her rookie campaign in 2008, Langhorne started only six games, picking up a little over 15 minutes per. In 2009 she doubled her minutes per (29.8), rebounds per (4.0 in 2008 to 7.9 in 2009) and did better than double in her points per game (4.8 in 2008, compared to 12.0 in 2009). It would appear as if Langhorne has found her stride -- and she has the 2009 Most Improved Player Award to prove it.

�I think last year Langhorne was a surprise to me,� said Plank. �Having not played so much the previous year, I really think she�s a special player. She was most improved last year and she came into camp and she looks great.�

Washington finished 5th overall in rebound differential in 2009 (+2.5) and there�s little reason to think they won�t finish at the top again this season. If Langhorne puts up similar numbers from last season and, perhaps even improves, then rebounding should remain a key stat for the Mystics. However on the other side of the coin there�s reason to believe scoring will pose as an issue for Washington. Not to keep hitting on a sore spot, but last season with Beard in the lineup Washington finished 9th overall in points scored (76) and field-goal percentage (.423). Now that Washington is faced working around the fact that Beard is no longer in the lineup, one is left wondering if the score-by-committee approach can increase those numbers. Only time will tell.

Frank Della Femina

Player on the Spot

Katie Smith will be the player on the spot this season for the Washington Mystics. She's already the third leading scorer in WNBA history (behind Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson) and if you add the points she scored while playing in the ABL prior to joining the WNBA, the all-time leading scorer in women's professional basketball. So it goes without saying that she can contribute on the offensive side of the ball, but the two-time champ also provides 11 years of experience and a winning attitude to any team that may need a boost.

Frank Della Femina

Projected Lineup

G.Lindsey Harding
G.Katie Smith
F.Monique Currie
F.Crystal Langhorne
C.Nakia Sanford

Players Added

G.Jennifer Lacy
G.Katie Smith

Players Lost

2008 Leaders

PPGAlana Beard15.9
RPGCrystal Langhorne7.9
APGLindsey Harding4.5
SPGAlana Beard2.32
BPGChasity Melvin.85

Team Stats

Points Scored76(9th)
Points Allowed77.1(9th)
Field-Goal Percentage.423(9th)
Opponents� FG%.433(5th)
Rebounding Diff.+2.3(5th)