- What Will the Rotation Look Like?
There are very few guaranteed spots on this Mystics roster, which could be a good thing. The competiveness that results from a lot of position battling makes for a great training camp and keeps everyone motivated to show they belong.
Ivory Latta, who has made back-to-back WNBA All-Star Games, should be a safe bet to start at point guard for the 2015 Mystics. She’s led the team in scoring and assists for two straight years and just re-signed in the offseason. Bria Hartley, who the team acquired on draft night last season, made 29 starts a year ago and will likely start alongside Latta in the backcourt. When healthy, Armintie Herrington, who the team signed as a free agent this offseason, could get the start at the SF spot. She’s coming off knee surgery and may be unable to play in the early parts of the season so this spot could be up for grabs. Third year guard/forwards Tayler Hill and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt could serve as reliable wing players in Herrington’s absence, and rookie Ally Malott is capable of playing multiple positions on the floor. Up front, look for Emma Meesseman, Kia Vaughn and Stefanie Dolson to log heavy minutes, with the rookie Malott also playing some “stretch four.”
Training camp will serve as a time to determine both who makes the team and who will earn minutes in the early parts of the season.
- What Kind of Impact Will the Rookies Make?
This is always one of the toughest parts to predict, because rookies can learn at different paces. Some can jump in and make an immediate impact, while others can take a while to adjust to the speed of the professional game.
Coach Thibault has spoken highly of the four rookies in camp, who all are vying for spots on the final roster. The team drafted Malott (Dayton) and Natasha Cloud (St. Joe’s) in the first and second round of the 2015 draft, and invited Blake Dietrick (Princeton) and Kayla Thornton (UTEP) to training camp.
“They’ve all been what we hoped for, they’ve been smart, they pick things up quickly, their basketball instincts have been good, and they fit in well with the players we have.”
Based on numbers, it’s unlikely all four will make the roster, though it’s possible if they do enough to impress throughout camp. Thibault said that sometimes you can enter a training camp and know which players will make the team, but “it won’t be so easy here.”
All four have the ability to shoot the ball, something Thibault would like to see the team improve upon from a year ago. Malott and Cloud can play multiple positions and provide versatility, another attribute Thibault was looking for to upgrade his team. Whichever rookies do make the squad, they should make an impact at some point this season.
- How Will Tayler Hill Bounce Back?
Hill, who was drafted fourth overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, had to miss the majority of her second season after giving birth to a baby boy. She came on strong at the end of her rookie season, but was never able to get back to 100 percent last year after becoming a mother. After giving birth, she’s now back in great shape and vying for a position on this 2015 squad. She has great speed and athleticism from the guard position and has the ability to be a great defender. She could be an x-factor for this Mystics team and will be one to watch throughout camp.
- What Will be the Team’s Identity?
There’s a lot of youth on this Mystics team, but most of the players have now been together for at least one year, many for multiple seasons, which should help with the continuity of the roster. Thibault said many spent the offseason communicating with one another, which led to pickup games prior to training camp and a team that really felt like they belong. They have a lot of versatility and players who can play multiple positions on the floor. They have a post presence and plenty of shooters to surround them, an area Thibault felt like needed improvement from a year ago. They want to be a fast-paced team that scores in transition, which they have built a roster in order to play that way.
- What are the Expectations for the Season?
The Mystics have hovered right around .500 the last two seasons, losing in the first round of the playoffs in both years. Now in his third year at the helm, Thibault has orchestrated his roster to fit his style of play. With another year of experience for many of the young players, they have to set their goals on improving upon the last two seasons. In a wide open Eastern Conference, there’s no reason to believe this team can’t compete and contend in the East and can set their goals on reaching the WNBA Finals.