It’s that time of year. Another WNBA season is on the horizon, and the Washington Mystics enter the 2018 campaign fresh off of a trip to the league semifinals. Now, they hope that maintaining a nucleus of Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and others will help propel them to the top of the league.
That all starts with a strong regular season, which kicks off Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena against the Indiana Fever. The Mystics announced their final roster cuts Thursday, and while the team is still waiting on Tayler Hill, LaToya Sanders and Ruffin-Pratt (who should be active for the season opener) to return to full health, head coach Mike Thibault is confident that this year’s group can take another step forward.
Rookie additions Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen have impressed in training camp, while last year’s first-round pick Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has continued to grow. Atkins, Walker-Kimbrough and the rest of the guards and wings have improved from 3-point range this offseason, a critical piece to the way the Mystics want to play as the professional game continues to evolve. This season, Washington will continue to focus on playing with pace and getting valuable shots (3-point looks and shots close to the basket).
Delle Donne’s uber-versatile game along with a former All-Star in Toliver headline the Mystics’ ability to attack from all over the floor, but Washington should boast the ability to both shoot and score inside from multiple positions this season. Ruffin-Pratt and forward Tianna Hawkins both figure to bring improved perimeter games to the table this season along with a wealth of experience, and the addition of 12-year veteran Monique Currie (who also had her best 3-point shooting season in 2017) will help immensely on the floor and in the locker room.
Now, with a great blend of talent and experience, the Mystics are ready to begin their quest for a long playoff run. That starts with positioning themselves well for the postseason, making Sunday’s opener and the rest of the regular season (Washington finished last season 18-16, the No. 6 seed) of paramount importance.
First up for the Mystics is a week that includes a pair of meetings with the Fever and a home date with the WNBA’s newest franchise, the Las Vegas Aces. A look at what to watch for as the 2018 season gets underway…
Sunday (1 p.m., NBATV, NBCSW) vs. Indiana | Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN3, Monumental) at Indiana
The Fever are in a rebuild after a 9-25 season, and the Mystics already claimed a lopsided 91-56 victory over Indiana in the preseason. Still, the Fever have plenty of players to pay attention to in an age where the WNBA’s overall talent level may be at its highest ever. The headliner of that group is exciting rookie guard Kelsey Mitchell, while 2017 leading scorers Candice Dupree and Erica Wheeler also return.
Tuesday vs. Las Vegas (7 p.m., Monumental, League Pass)
Formerly the San Antonio Stars, the Aces are also a team in transition, though they now have plenty to build around. Last year, the team drafted Washington star Kelsey Plum (19 points per game in her rookie season) first overall, and it added South Carolina center Aj’a Wilson with this year’s first overall pick. Add in last season’s leading scorer in Isabelle Harrison (22.0 points per game), and the Aces bring a good challenge to D.C. on Tuesday.