The Washington Mystics have been the greatest show on the court throughout the 2019 WNBA season as they are on pace to shatter the record for the top offensive rating in league history.
They enter Friday’s game with Chicago (8 ET, League Pass) with an offense that scores 112.4 points per 100 possessions – that is 12.5 points higher than any other team this season (Friday’s opponent Chicago ranks second at 99.9) and 3.3 points higher than any team has ever posted in the WNBA’s first 22 seasons (the 2000 Houston Comets hold the top mark at 109.1 for a full season).
Top Offenses All-Time (all offensive ratings over 108)
*champion **runner up
Entering the 2019 season, seven teams had posted an offensive rating greater than 108 points per 100 possessions; five of those teams advanced to the WNBA Finals in the same season with four going on to win the championship.
The Mystics are still in search of their first WNBA title in their 22nd season in the league. Last year marked their best season in franchise history – not only did they match the best win-loss record in team history (22-12, also done in 2010), but they advanced to the WNBA Finals for the first time.
However, they are still in search of their first Finals win as they were swept by the Seattle Storm in three games as Washington played with a hobbled Elena Delle Donne (knee injury suffered in semifinals) and were without Emma Meesseman (out for the season for national team commitments).
The team’s campaign for the 2019 season is “Run It Back” as they look to get back to the WNBA Finals and complete the job of bringing a WNBA title to the nation’s capital. Led by Delle Donne – the frontrunner to win her second league MVP award – the Mystics have the best record in the WNBA (20-7) and were the first team to clinch a playoff berth.
Of those 20 wins, 11 have come by at least 20 points as the Mystics have routinely blown teams off the court. There have been 25 games in the WNBA this season decided by 20 points or more; the Mystics account for 44 percent of those wins.
Largest Margins of Victory (20+ point wins)
11: Washington (including top two – plus-43, plus-39)
4: Las Vegas (including league-high three 30+ wins)
2: Los Angeles
1: Connecticut, Dallas, Indiana, Minnesota, Seattle
Washington has an average point differential of 11.4 points – more than double the second-place Las Vegas Aces (5.2) – and a 14.2 net rating, which is on pace to be the third-highest ever recorded in league history trailing only the 1998 and 2000 Houston Comets.
Top Net Ratings All-Time (all double-digit net ratings)
|2001||Los Angeles Sparks*||105.3||93.6||11.6|
|2017||Los Angeles Sparks**||106.7||96.1||10.6|
Net rating has an even stronger correlation with winning the WNBA championship than offensive efficiency. There have been 13 teams that have posted a double-digit net rating (Washington on pace to be the 14th); 12 of the 13 made the WNBA Finals; nine of the 13 won the WNBA title.
So what has been the key to Washington’s historic offensive season? It all starts with Delle Donne – whose career scoring average of 20.2 points per game ranks second all-time behind Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper.
Delle Donne is averaging a team-high 19.0 points, which ranks third in the league and her 115.3 offensive rating leads all players. Washington is 20-3 this season with Delle Donne in the lineup, not counting the loss they suffered when Delle Donne exited after one minute with a broken nose. Since returning to the lineup and donning a mask, the Mystics are 11-1 and enter Friday’s game riding a six-game win streak.
But Delle Donne is just one piece to this Mystics scoring machine. Washington leads all WNBA teams with five players averaging double figures in points and seven that average at least nine points per game.
And when it comes to shooting accuracy, the Mystics are on another level compared to the rest of the WNBA. Washington ranks first in field goal percentage (46.9%), second in 3-point percentage (36.6%) and first in free throw percentage (86.9%).
The Mystics lead the WNBA in 3-pointers made (9.1 per game) and attempted (24.9 per game), but do not have one individual player ranked in the top 10 in 3-pointers made. However, Washington has five players ranked between 11th and 22nd in 3-pointers made – Ariel Atkins (11th, 44 3PM), Delle Donne (16th, 39), Aerial Powers (19th, 37), Kristi Toliver (21st, 36) and Natasha Cloud (22nd, 35) – as nearly every player on the court for the Mystics is a threat to shoot the longball.
Overall, Washington scores 30.9 percent of their points on 3-point shots – the highest mark in the WNBA this season and up slightly from their 29.8 percent last season, a mark that was topped only by the champion Seattle Storm (31.1%).
The Mystics are the only team with an effective field goal percentage – which accounts for the added value of 3-point shots – above 50 percent. Their 53.5 EFG% is 3.8 percentage points higher than the second-ranked Aces and is on pace to be the top mark ever posted in league history, narrowly edging out last year’s champion Seattle Storm (53.4%).
Top Shooting Seasons All-Time (eFG% of 52.0% or higher)
|2016||Los Angeles Sparks*||26||8||53.3|
|2017||Los Angeles Sparks**||26||8||52.0|
Of the first nine teams post an effective field goal percentage of 52% or higher, six advanced to the WNBA Finals and four would go on to win the title, including the past three champions – Los Angeles in 2016 (53.3%), Minnesota in 2017 (52.3%) and Seattle in 2018 (53.4%).
As important as great shooting is to offensive efficiency, so is utilizing every offensive possession. While the Mystics rank eighth in pace (94.01), they average the fourth most field goal attempts per game (69.7) because they limit their turnovers. Washington leads the league in turnover percentage (14.5%), yet another mark that is on pace to be the best posted in league history along with their 1.89 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Top Assist/Turnover Ratio All-Time (AST/TO over 1.50)
|2018||Las Vegas Aces||64.7||15.5||1.58|
|2018||Los Angeles Sparks||60.7||15.5||1.52|
Lowest Turnover Percentage (TOV% under 15.5%)
The Mystics have seven games remaining to complete this masterpiece of a season in offensive efficiency. Of course, they won’t be satisfied posting these historic numbers if the end result isn’t a WNBA championship. And while the phrase “defense wins championships” is a popular cliché in sports, history has shown that great offense can propel a team to a title as well. Can the 2019 Washington Mystics be the latest example of that theory?