Mystics Update: Any bright spots?

Seattle Storm v Washington Mystics
Aaliyah Edwards, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, has been a bright spot for the winless Mystics. | Photo by Kenny Giarla/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Mystics have had a difficult start to the season. What positive takeaways, if any, are there to glean from their first stretch of games?

The Washington Mystics have gotten off to a very slow start, losing their first six games of the 2024 WNBA season. They are the only winless team in the Association.

Saturday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Storm was one to forget, but here is a recap of their more promising performances and some of the biggest takeaways from those games.

May 17: Mystics 77, Sun 84

The Mystics’ matchup with the Connecticut Sun, their second game of the season, was very close throughout; in fact, Washington held the lead entering the fourth quarter.

Both teams started off slow offensively, but the Mystics were able to get some key shooting from Karlie Samuelson, who has been shooting the ball very well to start the season. Her quick release means she’s always a threat to shoot the long ball, no matter the quality of pass.

The defense was good for the most part, until the offensive process bogged down for Washington, which negatively impact the defense and everything then spiraled. That has been the story of the Mystics season so far; they have remained competitive in most games this season, which is a testament to good coaching and steady improvement, but haven’t been able to hang on for wins.

Unfortunately, disaster struck in this game when Brittney Sykes injured her ankle early in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game. Sykes was coming off a career year and her rim pressure creates countless opportunities for a team that is expected to struggle with self-creation without Elena Delle Donne.

May 21: Mystics 68, Sparks 70

The Mystics’ fourth game of the season, a showdown against the Sparks in Los Angeles, resulted in probably their most devastating loss of the young season. As great as the rookies played, key turnovers at the end of the game with a chance to tie or take the lead ultimately doomed then.

On the bright side, this was Aaliyah Edwards’ best game of the season so far. She displayed a very quick first step, which is unique for a frontcourt player. Of course, her defense was stellar too, nabbing three steals and two blocks.

Defense was the calling card for Edwards coming out of college, where she played multiple coverages and excelled. This gives Washington the belief that she can amplify their existing defensive scheme and form a dangerous pairing next to Shakira Austin

Julie Vanloo also had a good game. The 31-year-old rookie from Belgium is averaging just under 10 points and six assists as the main point guard on the team. One thing that really stands out about Vanloo is her court awareness. She’s not afraid to put pressure on the rim or shoot the long ball. I’ve loved watching her run pick and roll with Edwards, who sets amazing screens to free up Vanloo from trailing defenders,

Even though Washington has struggled to capture any wins, observing steady improvements from the rookies has been the highlight of the season.

May 23: Mystics 80, Mercury 83

After falling short to the Sparks, the Mystics headed to Phoenix to take on the Mercury. It was another tough loss where play down the stretch doomed Washington.

This game might’ve been the best of the season for Ariel Atkins, as she finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Atkins has struggled to start the year. The offense doesn’t run through her as much, but against a small ball, five-out attack in Phoenix, it certainly posed a much better matchup.

Vanloo also had 15 points and four assists, but also four turnovers. This is the duality of a young point guard still trying to figure out the league. Vanloo has good court awareness, but often feels rushed and uncomfortable dealing with aggressive pick-and-roll coverages.

This is a common struggle for rookies, so the biggest things to look out for (besides wins) are the health of Austin and Sykes, and the in-season improvement from Vanloo and Edwards.

On Wednesday, the Mystics again will try to earn their first win, hosting the Atlanta Dream at 7 p.m. ET (League Pass).

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