WNBA: The Mystics move into the post-Mike Thibault era in 2022

The 2022 Washington Mystics season (and year) has been about a team in transition. For two years, fans have been hoping to see Elena Delle Donne back to full strength most days, as Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud would make up one of the WNBA’s best defensive tackles. But most of all, fans wanted to see the team make a playoff run with some of the key players in the 2019 tournament.

Did all of these things happen? No. But overall, I’d say 2022 has been a successful year for the Mystics, as they’ve made a change between succeeding in the season, saying goodbye to some past characters and looking at what future teams will look like.

The things mystics should be proud of in 2022

I have to say, after re-watching the 2022 season of the Mystics and going over things over the past couple of weeks, here’s what stands out in a positive way.

  • The Mystics use their first pick in the 2022 draft for Trade down to #3 And get a second lottery pick in 2023 – GM’s conventional wisdom says to hold on to their first draft picks and only trade to a superstar. The 2022 draft included several players who could have been No. 1 depending on who Washington wanted. Ultimately, the Mystics chose Mississippi’s Shakira Austin as the third seed. And considering how well she fit in with the Mystics, she may have been their first choice all along. I’ll enter Austin at another point.
  • The Mystics were the #1 defense in the WNBA – For the entire season, Washington held opponents to 97.8 points per 100 possessions. This helped them to a 22-14 regular season record. After the season, the starting guards were Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud Named to the All-WNBA Defensive First Team. Cloud was also tied for fifth in the favor vote WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Elena Delle Donne is back as the Mystics’ leading scorer per game in her first full season since her back injury – Delle Donne has completed the entire 2022 season from start to finish. In 25 games, she scored 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. It generally missed games for load management reasons. She also averaged 19 points per game in the playoffs. Although she didn’t appear on the All-Star or All-WNBA Team, let’s keep in mind that she returned from a back injury in the 2019 WNBA Finals and was limited to action last season. It was good to see her return to her dominant self last season.
  • Shakira Austin Makes USA Team for the FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup – Austin wasn’t expected to start in 2022. But GM coach and then head coach Mike Thibault is always ready to trust his young players when the opportunity presents itself. Ultimately, Austin started 32 of Washington’s 36 games, averaging 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Austin also averaged those numbers at about 21.5 minutes per game. After the season, Austin was named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team and the USA women’s national basketball team, Winning the gold medal. Austin came off the bench for most of the matches, but had impressive performances in the group stage, including A.J 19 points, 10 rebounding performance against Puerto Rico.
  • Ariel Atkins confirms her status as one of the WNBA’s best guards – Atkins has been known as a solid defender and solid scorer throughout her professional career. In each of her last two seasons, Atkins has stepped up her game and scored a more central goal for her team. She averaged 14.6 points and 2.3 assists per game, made her second straight All-Star appearance and was also on Team USA with Austin.
  • Las Vegas sweeps the Aces in the regular season, 3-0 – If the Mystics had to face the Aces in the first round of the WNBA playoffs instead of the Seattle Storm, I guarantee they would have advanced to the semifinals (although I don’t think they would have won it all). Instead, the Mystics were the only team with a 20+ win record that was accomplished in the playoffs. And the Aces won the WNBA championship.

Missed opportunities for mystics

  • Rui Machida wasn’t the backup keeper she could have been – The Japanese superstar of the 2020 Olympics was never expected to be a double-string in the WNBA. But I was hoping she would be a solid player for 15 minutes per game who could set up teammates and keep defenses honest with her scoring. As a passer, she was 10th in the league for assist percentage (and averaged 2.6 assists per game). But Machida averaged just 1.8 points per game and shot 31 percent from the field, which isn’t good enough for a team looking to get back to the WNBA Finals sooner rather than later.
  • Mischa Hines Allen running back for the second consecutive season after the 2020 season – Hines-Allen averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 34 games but only started 15 games. Perhaps she will bounce back in 2023, but she is entering the second year of a guaranteed contract that will pay her $175,100 this season and $180,200 in 2024.
  • Alicia Clark efficient three-point drop – Clark averaged 8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 29 games after missing the 2021 season due to an injury to Lefranc. She remained a solid defender, but Clarke significantly fell behind with her three-point shots. She barely made 30 percent of them (30 out of 99 attempts). In 2020, her final WNBA season, Clarke made 35 of 67 triples for the Seattle Storm. And in 2019, she hit 51 out of 106 triples.
    Clark played longtime franchise player Sue Bird as Seattle’s starting point guard, so could Bird’s absence be the reason Clark’s long-range shooting has dropped so much? Not exactly because Bird missed the entire 2019 season due to arthroscopic knee surgery. My feeling is that recovering from Lisfranc’s surgery may be part of it, but it’s something Clark will need to fix for next season.

The Mystics say goodbye to Mike Thibault as their head coach, but he laid the foundation for the team to succeed after him

After the 2022 WNBA season, Mike Tebow continued coaching as an assistant for Team USA in the World Cup on Cheryl Reeve’s crew. after the tournament, He announced that he was retiring as their head coach But he will remain as their general manager. Associate head coach Eric Thibault is now named the new Mystics head coach.

While Thibault would continue to run the front office for the Mystics, it marked the end of an era in Washington. Before Thibault came to DC, the Mystics had limited success in the postseason and were known as one of the WNBA’s most poorly managed teams. After coming to D.C. and rebuilding the team over several years, they were finally able to win the 2019 WNBA Championship. And we’re grateful for that.

Several key players from the 2019 team such as Emma Messeman and Christy Tolliver have departed for other teams. But the Mystics drafted Austin this season and Cloud has grown into a lone point guard in Washington. As Delle Donne heads toward the end of her career, they and Atkins appear to be the core Eric Thibault will work to build on last season’s success.

How do you all think the 2022 mystery season was a good fit for you fans? Let us know in the comments below.

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