2022 Draft Lottery Preview: Washington Mystics

The 2022 WNBA Draft Lottery will be held Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) to determine which team will secure the top pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, which will be held in April.

The Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and Dallas Wings (via Los Angeles) – are vying for the No. 1 overall pick with the lottery odds based on the cumulative records of the past two regular seasons.

We began our team-by-team look at the 2022 WNBA Draft Lottery with the Indiana Fever – the team with the highest odds of winning the lottery at 44.2% – and discussed the importance of winning the No. 1 overall pick. We continued with the Atlanta Dream – the team with the second-highest odds at 27.6% – as they seek their second letter win. That brings us to the Washington Mystics – the team with third-highest odds at 17.8% – just two seasons removed from winning their first WNBA title.

Here are five things to know about the Mystics headed into the Draft Lottery.

1. While the Mystics have never won the WNBA Draft Lottery since it debuted in 2002, they did hold the No. 1 overall pick in 1999 – ahead of their second season in the league. With hopes of landing No. 1 in 2022, the Mystics will have the No. 1 pick in 1999 – Chamique Holdsclaw – as their team representative at the lottery on Sunday.

2. It’s not often that a team two seasons removed from a championship finds itself in the lottery, but the past two years have been difficult for Washington. First, the pandemic crushed any hopes of defending their title in 2020 as much of the core of the title team opted out including Elena Della Donne, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders; even Tina Charles, who signed with the team during the offseason following the championship, did not suit up for the Mystics until 2021.

After a season hindered by the pandemic, the Mystics’ hopes for a bounce-back in 2021 were doomed by a plethora of injuries. Most notably, Delle Donne was limited to just three games as she continued to have issues with her back after multiple surgeries. Alysha Clark – the team’s top offseason acquisition heading into the 2021 season – missed the entire season after suffering a foot injury while playing overseas. Plus, 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman missed the entire 2021 season due to overseas commitments. That left a shell of the roster to fight for a playoff berth and despite Charles leading the league in scoring, the Mystics fell just short of making the postseason.

3. While the Mystics have some key pieces under contract for 2022 – Delle Donne, Cloud, Clark, Ariel Atkins, Sydney Wiese and Erica McCall – there are some big decisions to make in free agency for both the team and players like Charles, Myisha Hines-Allen and Leilani Mitchell.

Then, there is the question of what to do with this year’s lottery pick. When Washington signed Charles in 2020 and Clark in 2021, they were adding veterans to a championship core looking to strike for another title while the window was open. Do they want to bring a rookie into that mix or would they look to move the pick to land another veteran? Remember, the last time the Mystics were in the lottery in 2017, they used the No. 2 overall pick as part of the trade package to acquire Delle Donne from Chicago. When it comes to roster composition, the Mystics have a mix of homegrown players that they drafted (Atkins, Cloud, Hines-Allen and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough) and players that they acquired via trade or free agency, including a pair of league MVPs in Delle Donne and Charles.

4. In his exit interview at the close of the season, coach Mike Thibault did not hold back on his evaluation of the 2021 season. “I’m a big believer in the old Bill Parcells’ saying, ‘you are what the scoreboard says you are,’ and we’re 12-20,” he said.

When we look at the scoreboard and compare the 2019 champion Mystics with the Mystics from the past two seasons, the contrast is jarring. Of course, injuries and player availability played a major role in the outcome of these numbers, but all of that must be considered when making offseason decisions about the roster the team will field for 2022 and beyond.

Stat 2019 2020 2021
W-L 26-8 (0.765) 9-13 (0.409) 12-20 (0.375)
OffRtg 112.9* (1) 100.1 (9) 99.5 (8)
DefRtg 98.1 (6) 102.2 (7) 104.4 (11)
NetRtg 14.8 (1) -2.1 (8) -5.0 (8)
eFG% 53.6 (1) 49.3 (8) 47.5 (9)
TS% 57.9 (1) 53.2 (8) 51.9 (9)
REB% 51.4 (3) 48.8 (10) 48.1 (9)
AST% 66.9 (5) 66.6 (3) 65.6 (6)
TOV% 14.9 (1) 17.1 (3) 16.0 (4)
AST/TO 1.86* (1) 1.44 (3) 1.45 (5)

*highest mark of all-time

5. Thibault said that the Mystics are set for a “reset” rather than a rebuild as they look to return to the winning culture that led them to the 2019 title. Getting the roster healthy – particularly Delle Donne, who has played in a total of three games since the team won the championship – is paramount to Washington cracking open that championship window once again. The time between the Mystics Game 5 of the WNBA Finals on Oct. 10, 2019 and the team’s season opener on May 6, 2022 is 939 days; Delle Donne has played three games over a five-day span during that time.

Another key question for the Mystics this offseason is whether Charles returns to the team as the veteran looks to win a championship before the end of her career. She is coming off a season in which she won her second scoring title with a career-high 23.4 points per game on a career-high 31.1% usage rate.

If Delle Donne and Clark return healthy in 2022, Meesseman returns to the team, players like Atkins (coming off a career-best 16.2 ppg and her fourth straight All-Defensive team nod) and Cloud (coming off a career-high 6.4 assists per game) continue to improve, and the Mystics add a top-three pick into the mix, is that enough to put them back in the championship picture? What if Charles decides to run it back with DC one more year to see if the team she thought she was joining following the 2019 title is finally intact in 2022?

There are plenty of questions ahead for Washington. On Sunday, they’ll get one answer as the Draft Lottery determines their first round selection.