Li Meng proves worthy of All-Rookie Team

Whether by way of the WNBA Draft or free agency, evaluating potential professional basketball players is a hard gig. For every hit, there are plenty of misses. When a franchise hits on a rookie, it’s worth celebrating. Li Meng is that successful rookie for the Washington Mystics in the 2023 WNBA season.

Meng didn’t come to the WNBA via the traditional route of playing for an American college and then getting her name called in the WNBA Draft. Instead, she played professionally in China before earning a training camp contract with the Mystics in March of 2023 and eventually earning a full-time roster spot.

At 28 years old, Meng is on the older end of the rookie spectrum – something she’s used to her advantage. Prior experience playing professional basketball in China has only helped Meng grow accustomed to the WNBA game faster.

Despite primarily operating in a role off the bench, Meng has had success filling in for stars when necessary. For example, she got her lone start of the season on June 16 against Phoenix and dropped a career-high 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 shooting from deep, helping lead the Mystics to a big-time win in The District.

Meng has shown tremendous upside in the WNBA with her feel for the game and versatility standing at six feet tall. But most of all, her sharpshooting has earned her consistent minutes with the Mystics. She’s one of the top jump shooters on the team – a skill that is increasingly trending upward in professional hoops. Her 1.2 made threes per game rank first among all rookies and third on her team (despite only playing 15.9 minutes per game).

On the season, Meng is averaging 5.3 points on .359/.347/.810 shooting splits to go along with 1.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Normally, 35.9 percent shooting from the field is a number fans would like to see improve, but for Meng, 72.5 percent of her field goal attempts come from beyond the three-point line, so her field goal percentage will naturally be a bit lower than players who do more damage around the rim.

A different way to look at that: 68.8 percent of Meng’s points come from three-point territory. That’s the third-highest mark in the WNBA for players who average at least 15 minutes of playing time per contest.

While Aliyah Boston (14.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) and Diamond Miller (11.6 points and 2.9 assists per game) have dominated most of the Rookie of the Year conversations, Meng has earned consideration for the All-Rookie Team. She’s already earned a quick spot in the rotation for a Mystics team looking to make some noise in the playoffs with her flamethrower jumper.