2024 WNBA Season Preview: Washington Mystics

Washington Mystics v Las Vegas Aces
The Washington Mystics need an offensive leap from Shakira Austin to be competitive in 2024. | Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

As the team enters a new era, the hope is that the Washington Mystics can remain competitive while rebuilding, seeing development from the franchise centerpieces while keeping the long term in mind.

This year’s Washington Mystics roster will look much different than it did a year ago. With the departure of Natasha Cloud and Elena Delle Donne stepping away from the team, it’s time to start looking at the new core of young players.

What can we expect from the Mystics this season?

How will the rookie perform?

Aaliyah Edwards will have big shoes to fill at the power forward position this year. Her skill set fits very well next to Shakira Austin in the frontcourt, especially defensively, which is where she can really make her mark in the league. Edwards’ versatility on that end allows her to amplify any defensive scheme that exists.

Washington has evolved from an elite offensive team to an elite defensive team since the turn of the decade. With Edwards in the lineup, it will be difficult for teams to hunt anyone in the projected starting lineup. Obviously, the WNBA brings its own set of challenges for rookies so the question for Edwards will be can her defense translate immediately?

On the offensive end, she has great passing instincts and a respectable midrange shot that could improve over time. Turnovers were on the high side during her time in college, which makes her a polarizing player. Washington’s offense likely won’t be very good this year, especially without having a true point guard on the roster, but Edwards still has a chance to be a super impactful rookie despite being in a rebuilding situation.

Will Shakira Austin make the leap?

Last season was a rough one for Shakira Austin. While injuries hampered what could have been a spectacular year, it also seemed like she hit a sophomore slump from a production aspect; her numbers were very similar to her rookie season. As she now becomes the face of the franchise, can she take the leap offensively?

Austin has Defensive Player of the Year potential, but if she can emerge into a legitimate pick-and-roll threat and develop somewhat of a midrange or reliable post game, it will open up so much for her and the Mystics offense for years to come.

Austin had good indicators as a post-up player, finishing last year in the 98th percentile in post-up efficiency (1.33 PPP) according to Synergy; however this was on low volume. She will likely have more touches this season, which could mean more post-up opportunities. If she can maintain great efficiency while taking on a larger offensive load, that will be a great sign that she’s made the leap.

Can Brittney Sykes replicate last season’s production?

Brittney Sykes had the best season of her career last year, posting career highs in points and assists per game. What she was able to do for Washington with all the injuries was remarkable. Her athleticism stands out as she was the only Mystics guard that could put consistent pressure on the rim with her drives.

This type of advantage creation is one of, if not the, most important aspects of basketball. It’s one of the reasons why she had one of the best on/off ratings in the league last season. The Mystics were 13 points better when Sykes was on the court, which is a reflection of how valuable her two-way play is.

Most of the advanced metrics labeled Sykes as a top-20 player, which seems pretty accurate based on the state of the league; however, I think that she can make another leap this year into the top-15. She has that type of two-way impact that very few guards have and it’ll be interesting to see if she can replicate last year’s performance.

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