Washington’s roster is loaded, even without Alysha Clark this season. Furthermore, the draft class isn’t particularly strong.
The WNBA Draft is on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch it on ESPN and the event will be virtual due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In most years, I would have gone on an analysis of several players who could be Washington’s selection in the first round. However, Washington traded their first round pick (fifth overall) to the Dallas Wings in a deal to get Tina Charles. And furthermore, they have no picks in this draft.
This doesn’t mean that the front office will be asleep at the wheel on Thursday. Tyler Byrum of NBC Sports Washington wrote that General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault and his staff will always do their due diligence. Even though the Mystics don’t have a pick, the team could always make a trade on Thursday that few could see coming.
All of that said, I don’t think the Mystics will pick in the draft and it shouldn’t hurt them one bit this season. Here are some reasons why:
The 2021 Draft Class is perceived to be weak
Last year’s draft class was quite strong. Then-Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu was first overall and would have likely been the Rookie of the Year if she didn’t suffer an early season injury after her strong college career. But other players like then-Oregon forward Satou Sabally, the No. 2 overall pick and then-UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield were second round picks and made big impacts themselves for the Dallas Wings and Minnesota Lynx, respectively. Dangerfield was the Rookie of the Year.
This year’s class isn’t filled with similar names. Two of the top players this past college season: UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, were freshmen. They can’t go pro like their men’s counterparts can. Instead, they can’t be in the WNBA until they either graduate, are four years out of high school or turn 22. While there are some more players going pro early in the WNBA in recent years, in general, they are involving players who fit in those criteria.
The top players in this draft include Arizona guard Aari McDonald, Texas center Charli Collier, Louisville guard Dana Evans and Finnish center Awak Kuier. To be fair to all four, I expect them to be solid contributors to the teams they play on. However, I don’t expect to see them hit superstar status right away.
The Mystics don’t have much roster space, even with Alysha Clark’s injury
According to Her Hoop Stats, the Mystics have nine players who are not on training camp spots and have $175,260 in cap room to sign two to three players. There are six players on such contracts, who are Theresa Plaisance, Shavonte Zellous, Aislinn Konig, Jillian Alleyne, Stella Johnson and Sug Sutton. Given the cap room left, Washington can really only sign two players for a full season.
With Alysha Clark out for the season, Washington can’t get a basic injury hardship exception right away. That can only happen if there are two players injured for a length of time, will be out for at least three weeks after the request for a hardship exception, AND at least two games are played. Last season, the Mystics had this issue with Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles out for the season but Washington couldn’t get hardship relief until those two games were played.
Looking at Washington’s roster, it would be tough for a draft pick to make the opening day team anyway.
Should we watch the draft anyway as Mystics fans?
Absolutely. While it’s unlikely that the Mystics will have any draft picks on the roster, they could always bring more players to training camp among draft-eligible players who weren’t selected. And many draft picks also won’t make their teams’ rosters. If Washington were to suffer the injury bug this season, it’s possible that they may look at some of the players in consideration for this year’s draft who don’t make a team.