Delle Donne marks beginning of new era for Mystics

Chris Gehring, Jeremy Hyman

February 2, 2017

This is big. Really big. Pinch yourself, because the Mystics just acquired Elena Delle Donne.

As the ‘Stics enter their 20th season in the WNBA, they’ll do so with the league’s most dynamic offensive player, a former MVP, a gold medalist, a three-time WNBA All-Star starter, and quite frankly something they’ve never had; one of the faces of the league.

What does this mean for the city?

The Mystics and their fans have certainly suffered their fair share of heartache over the years.  In 19 years, they have won just one playoff series and have never reached the WNBA Finals. In 2013, when Delle Donne, along with Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins, were a part of the ‘Big 3’, the Mystics had an over 99% chance to land one of the three.  They wound up getting the fourth pick, which actually may have been a blessing after all as that pick turned into Tayler Hill, who now could pair up with Delle Donne as one of the top scoring duos in the league.   But, at the time, not landing a top pick in that draft was tough on the D.C. fan base.

Now, Delle Donne is here, and here to stay.  She instantly makes the Mystics a contender and could turn years of pain and suffering into something Mystics fans have been craving since they came into existence 20 years ago.  While adding her doesn’t guarantee anything, it puts the ‘Stics in a position where they can realistically talk about competing for titles, something that hasn’t always been the case.  There’s reason for optimism, reason for hope, reason for excitement, because the best female basketball player in the world now plays in D.C.

“I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to be working with a first-class organization and some incredible teammates,” said Delle Donne in a conference call Thursday. “And Coach Thibault’s resume speaks for itself.”

While Thibault’s resume – a three-time WNBA Coach of the Year and the league’s winningest head coach – is impressive, so is Delle Donne’s.

Entering her fifth WNBA season in 2017, the Delaware native (also a former UD Blue Hen) has taken the league by storm on a quick ascent to stardom. She’s already been named league MVP (2015), is a two-time All-WNBA First Team selection and is a three-time All-Star. Over the first four years of her career, she’s scored 20.5 points per game and averaged 6.6 rebounds to go with 1.7 blocks per contest. She also won an Olympic gold medal in Rio with Team USA.

Now, Delle Donne’s bringing that versatile skill set closer to home, and she’s confident it will fit in with what the Mystics are trying to accomplish.

“It’s known across the league the culture that coach Thibault has created in Washington, and it’s something I was extremely attracted to,” said Delle Donne. “It’s a really talented team that he’s putting together, and he’s also a coach that wins. He’s the winningest coach in the WNBA. I’m really excited to get on board and learn some new things.”

The 27-year-old Delle Donne – in the middle of her prime as a professional – can do it all for Washington. At 6-5, she’s an efficient rebounder and scorer down low, but her ability to stretch the floor out to the 3-point arc will make the Mystics extremely difficult to defend, especially with the range of fellow big Emma Meesseman and guard Tayler Hill.

“The versatility is huge,” noted Delle Donne. “To be able to create that kind of spacing is going to be difficult to guard, and not only that but we’re going to have a lot of mismatches with players that can play various positions.”

With the core of the team solidified, there’s still plenty of time left in free agency and the draft – where the Mystics also secured the 6th overall pick earlier this week –  for Thibault to continue to improve and refine his roster. When all the pieces come together, there’s now no question that the Mystics will be listed as a bonafide contender. Delle Donne knows that with a young and talented group, Washington’s now set to aim for the WNBA’s mountaintop.

“That’s going to be our goal,” said Delle Donne. “I absolutely would love to bring a championship home to D.C.”

It all starts this spring.