As the end of 2020 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this historic season by reviewing each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2020 Season In Review. Next up is the Washington Mystics.
During last offseason the Mystics acquired 7x All-Star Tina Charles. Charles was expected to add talent and depth to the already dominant frontcourt of 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne, 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and LaToya Sanders. Delle Donne, Charles and Sanders, however, all did not play during the 2020 season. In addition, guard Natasha Cloud – a key piece during the Mystics’ 2019 championship run – sat out this season to focus on social justice initiatives. This left the Mystics without some of their most prominent players and leaders. Despite these losses, Washington still qualified for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season while finishing with a 9-13 record.
With Delle Donne, Charles and Sanders all sitting out, Myisha Hines-Allen was thrust into the Mystics’ starting lineup – and she proved ready. Hines-Allen recorded her first career start on opening weekend and dropped a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds. The forward would go on to set new career-highs in every category including single-game scoring with 35 points (Aug. 21) and again with 13 rebounds on three separate occasions (Aug. 23; Aug. 30; Sep. 6).
“This was a great opportunity for her to make a statement about her game and where she is, and how she can help this team,” said Head Coach Mike Thibault.
Hines-Allen finished the season averaging a team-high 17 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 29.9 MPG. For reference, in 2019 she averaged 2.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG and 7.8 MPG. In just one year Hines-Allen increased her scoring output 14.7 PPG and became a go-to player for the Mystics.
“You’re talking about somebody who’s an undersized post player who’s learned to be a ballhandler, a three-point shooter, a post-up player,” Thibault said. “That’s pretty versatile to do all of those things in the course of a year.”
“It was hard for her to sit last year behind all of those great players. She was relishing the opportunity to get minutes this summer and prove that she can be a factor for us in the future.”
With Charles, Cloud, Delle Donne and Sanders all back in the mix in 2021, Washington has plenty to be excited about – and could be a serious championship contender again.
Like Hines-Allen, teammate Ariel Atkins was also thrust into a new role in 2020. Last year, the backcourt leaned on vocal veteran Cloud. This year, Atkins was tasked with that role – and not only did she lead the team on the court, but she was one of the leading voices when it came to social justice initiatives.
Every game Atkins would post the story of a victim of police brutality on her social media.
“I feel obligated because I do have a platform,” Atkins said. “I’m not a very vocal person all the time, but when I do have a chance to speak, I like to make sure what comes out of my mouth does good to the world and gives justice to those who deserve justice.”
On August 26th the WNBA postponed games. Ariel Atkins used her platform to deliver a message on behalf of the Mystics that evening.
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 27, 2020
"We need to understand that these moments are so much bigger than us."
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 31, 2020
The third-year player continued to push social justice initiatives all while averaging a career-high 14.6 PPG, 2.4 APG and 1.8 SPG. Though this was a new role for Atkins, she took it in stride – making an impact both on and off the court.
The 2019 Finals MVP is known for her efficiency and consistency. This remained true in 2020. As one of the more experienced players on the Mystics, Meesseman was someone Coach Thibault could rely on night in and night out.
Meesseman finished the season averaging a solid 13 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.5 APG. On August 5th, the forward dropped a season-high 24 points and tied a career-high of 13 rebounds. She scored in double-digits in all but four games.
The Mystics’ frontcourt will be one to watch next year as Delle Donne and Meesseman reunite along with Charles.
For the third consecutive season, Ariel Atkins was named to the 2020 WNBA All-Defensive Second Team. The guard finished third in steals, snatching 1.8 SPG.
After her breakout season, Hines-Allen was named to the 2020 All-WNBA Second Team. The forward ranked 6th in rebounds and 12th in scoring.
Mystics’ Late Season Run
The Mystics sat at 4-12 with six games left in the regular season. In need of some victories, Washington secured a playoff spot going 5-1 over that last stretch. Four players averaged double-digits over the last six games, including Hines-Allen, who averaged a double-double with 22.7 PPG and 10.2 RPG.
Natasha Cloud’s Social Justice Initiatives
Having always been an outspoken player – speaking most notably previously out about gun violence – Cloud, among others, took a stand this season. In June, Cloud announced she would forgo the 2020 WNBA season and instead focus on social justice initiatives.
“In this very moment, there’s never been this much momentum and this much leverage behind Black Lives Matter,” Cloud said. “So you have to capitalize on that. Going into a bubble, being off the front lines, being out of my community, that’s not capitalizing, personally, for me. Capitalizing is forgoing a three-month season.”
Cloud made an impact in Washington D.C. and her hometown of Broomall, PA. The guard worked with When We All Vote and More Than A Vote to register voters. In addition, Cloud helped ensure that the Entertainment and Sports Arena (the Mystics’ arena) would be used as a voting site.