12 Days, 12 Previews: Washington Mystics
Five keys to a successful season.
The WNBA’s 15th season begins June 3rd and SLAMonline is counting down the days with in-depth previews of all twelve teams.
Prior to the start of each WNBA season (and NBA season for that matter), every writer and blogger in the country compiles extensive (by “extensive” I mean “wordy,” and by “wordy” I mean “tired”) previews analyzing the upcoming year, team by team. It’s just a fact of life. Almost as certain as death and taxes.
The problem, however, is they all look, feel, and say the same exact thing every year (copy and paste). You, the reader, deserves far better. Thus, we’re going through each team discussing five specific things they’ll need for their 2011 campaign to be considered a success.
More importantly, we want this to be interactive – be sure to post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Five Keys to the Season: Washington Mystics
By Ben York / @bjyork
5. Getting to the line: The Mystics attempted 21.4 FT’s per game in 2010, fourth-best in the league. With a roster that features a mix of veterans and youth, getting to the foul line will need to be a huge emphasis for Washington in 2011. Averaging just 61 shot-attempts each night, making free-throws was a big part of the Mystics success and accounted for nearly 22 percent of their points each game, second-best in the league (Lynx, 23 percent).
4. Ball Control: The loss of Lindsey Harding to the Atlanta Dream is going to sting. Big time. Washington averaged 13.9 apg in 2010 (last in the league) and Lindsey Harding accounted for almost 1/3 of those each night (4.0 apg). The Mystics will ultimately place a heavy burden on rookie guard Jasmine Thomas out of Duke to fill Harding’s shoes.
Additionally, Washington turned the ball over 15.9 times per game which was third-worst in the league. If the Mystics want to get back into the playoffs in 2011, their assist-to-turnover ratio will certainly need to improve.
3. Scoring: The Mystics won’t return as good of a defensive team in 2011 with the loss of Harding and Katie Smith. Thus, they won’t be able to rely solely on their defense to win games. Washington will need Alana Beard to have a similar season as she did in 2006 when she averaged a career-best 19.2 ppg.
Other than Beard, who else is going to assume the scoring load for the Mystics in 2011? Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman need to combine for close to 25 points each game to give the Mystics a chance at surpassing last year’s scoring average of 76.9, third-worst in the league.
2. Defense: Washington made the playoffs largely because of their stellar defense in 2010. They held opponents to just 73.2 ppg in 2010, first in the league. Furthermore, they held other teams to just 42.7 percent from the floor (3rd in the league), just 28.3 rpg (1st in the league), and only 16.0 apg (4th in the league).
However, their defense was anchored and led by Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding who are both no longer with the team. The addition of Nicky Anosike should help solidify the paint and the return of Alana Beard (perennial All-Defensive team) will be a welcomed blessing.
1. Alana Beard: When it was announced that Beard would miss the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury, many people (including myself) wrote-off the Mystics and their chances to make the playoffs.
They finished with a 22-12 record, first in the Eastern Conference, and lost in the Conference Semifinals to the Atlanta Dream. Unfortunately, they enter 2011 with a vastly different team and the expectations are, once again, unclear. However, SLAMonline’s own Alana Beard is back with a vengeance in 2011. She’s determined to get back to where she was prior to the injury.
If 2010 taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t count Alana Beard and the Mystics out.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll tweet out some of our favorite responses!