The Washington Mystics head off to another offseason where they are still trying to identify the players they will go with long term. This is the first part of a three part roundtable with some other Mystics fans, where we talk about the questions surrounding their backcourt.
The WNBA offseason is long. But that doesn’t stop us from talking about what moves teams could or should make in the coming months when free agency and trades start coming around full speed.
I’ve already given some indications on what issues the Mystics face this winter which you can read by clicking here. But I’m only one voice, so I invited a couple others to provide their takes who’ve helped out here in the past. They are:
- Andy Livingston, who writes sports columns for Impose Magazine and Elevator Doors.
- Ebenezer Famutimi, another Mystics fan who lives out in the West Coast. You can see him commenting regularly on the Mystics’ Facebook page.
- I’ll fill in too so you can see where I specifically stand on the questions.
And without further ado, let’s get to the four questions surrounding the Mystics’ backcourt.
1. Should Bria Hartley be the starting point guard for the Washington Mystics in 2015?
Andy: It’s probably time to hand her the keys to the offense, although any hesitation should be respected by fans, the production is too similar to just not go younger. Plus, many of the teammates will have their first year of WNBA and International experience under their belt, so even if they wind up under .500 again, I think the time to turn to the future is there.
Ebenezer: Even though Hartley played the point guard position during her during her 4 years at UConn, I still prefer her as shooting guard, at least for now. Why? Plain and simple: Ivory Latta is the Mystics’ point guard. In her rookie season, Bria eventually started at the 2-spot, and for the most part was impressive, particularly during the earlier stage of the 2014 season.
I think this is the bigger question with Hartley: Does or will she feel more comfortable at the 1-spot? If she is more comfortable there, perhaps she will be the starting point guard down the road, but I don’t think it should be for 2015.
AL: Yes. Hartley’s overall production was good during 2014, especially early on as Ebenezer mentioned. She also had a chance to handle the ball on a regular basis during the season, so she can play in the point guard role right away like she did in college.
Hartley’s main concern as point guard is her tendency to turn the ball over, where she had a TOV% of 19.9% during her rookie season. But that should improve next summer. In addition, there are other players, namely Emma Meesseman who can also make plays for others, so it’s not like Hartley will have to be holding the ball for long periods of time every possession.
2. Barring the Mystics drafting a superstar guard over the next couple seasons, do you see Bria Hartley and Tayler Hill as the Mystics’ starting backcourt in the future?
Andy: Tayler Hill is a much bigger question mark at the moment, but no one should be foolish enough to walk away after a player who only played 39 total minutes coming off a pregnancy. I think Tayler should still come off the bench for now, unless the coaching staff sees something in training camp that indicates otherwise. But by the end of 2015, a backcourt of Hartley and Hill should be the norm.
EF: No, because I don’t see Hill panning out as a starter, in D.C. at least. In the few games she played in 2014, albeit coming off maternity leave, she still lacked the aggression and physicality which plagued her in 2013. Many, including myself, are beginning to doubt if the future will differ.
AL: It’s early to say whether both Hartley and Hill will be on the Mystics for the long term. But for now, the Mystics are best off seeing what they can do together. You don’t want two young guards who are first round picks in two consecutive years to be adversaries fighting for one starting position if Ivory Latta stays. Since Hill is more of a traditional shooting guard than Hartley is, and that Hartley can play the point guard position, it’s worth seeing what they can do together now.
3. Should Ivory Latta remain with the Mystics in 2015? If she stays, what does it mean for them short and long term?
Andy: Latta will be on her fourth team in nine years by the time 2015 comes around. She will be at the end of her prime on whatever next contract she signs. Assuming that Thibault gives Hartley the starting point guard position, can Latta fit with a bench role for the Mystics? Maybe. An affordable veteran who can steer the ship against a bench unit is always valuable, but another team might be able to talk her away into a starting position as well.
EF: Yes, Latta should remain with the team. Without her, the Mystics do NOT make the playoffs in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Yes, the veteran has shown some frustrating levels of inconsistency, but the constant energy and leadership she brings to team is priceless. She has shown more of that than recent past featured veterans, like Crystal Langhorne.
AL: I love what Latta provided for the Mystics during the last two seasons on the court with her play and energy. But with her two-year contract now finished per The Washington Post (article’s from 2013), she and the Mystics should part ways. This way, Latta can continue her career with another team where she can realistically win a championship while she can play at a high level. A lot of teams will want her services given her elite shooting and strong playmaking abilities.
If Latta stays in Washington whether she’s re-signed or cored, the Mystics will win more games in the short term. In fact, I think the Mystics will make the playoffs in 2015 with her back. I just don’t see Latta being relegated to the bench considering that she’s been a two-time All-Star while on the team. Having said that, Washington doesn’t figure to contend for a championship in 2015 anyway, and there’s a big 2016 Draft class on the horizon. Therefore, winning shouldn’t be their top priority, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Keeping Latta isn’t a total positive for the Mystics’ rebuild going forward, because she would prevent Hartley and Hill from getting a full chance to play in their presumed long term roles. She prevents Hartley from playing more minutes at point guard, and she could be preventing Hill from starting sooner rather than later, if Hartley keeps her starting role in 2015 as an off-guard.
I’ll finish by saying this. I am not condemning Ivory Latta when I say that she shouldn’t be on the Mystics anymore. I’ll repeat that I love what she did in D.C. However, this team is already playing at its potential with what they have, and the presence of both Hartley and Hill as young prospects make Latta the odd-woman out given that this team is still rebuilding.
4. Some believe that Tayler Hill will be the Mystics’ best player among the players on the 2014 roster. But will she get a chance to start in 2015 in order to make sure that ultimately happens?
Andy: I think she will get a chance to develop, but I can see how Mike Thibault would be very cautious starting such a young backcourt, especially with Hill coming off a year where she wasn’t on the court very much. But she is the best option in that second guard position. Unless Thibault gets very creative and starts Latta and Hartley again, I can see Hill getting the start.
EF: While I get that she may very well be the Mystics’ top draft pick of any draft class in 2015, Tayler Hill’s not entitled to anything next season, given that we haven’t seen her perform at a consistent level. Again, I just don’t see Hill becoming a starter on this team. I also think that she’s not doing herself any favors by not playing internationally this offseason. Quite frankly, she needs it in order to prove folks wrong.
AL: I would think that Hill will get a full opportunity to show that she can start for the 2015 Mystics team in training camp, regardless of what happens with Latta. She is the Mystics’ only young draft lottery pick, so that alone makes her a priority to develop. Also to Hill’s credit, she finished her rookie season on a strong note, so that must be taken into consideration, just like her brief — and pathetic — 2014 performance.
If Monique Currie’s gone, Hill will probably be the highest draft pick from any year on the 2015 Mystics team. If she is not starting by the midpoint of the season, then she’s likely a bust considering that every Top-5 2013 draft pick besides her is starting. If this ends up being the case, it will really set their rebuild back, given that the Mystics struck out in the 2013 Draft Lottery which I’m still extremely bitter about.
Part 2 of our roundtable will be released later, where we will discuss the Mystics’ questions surrounding their frontcourt heading into the 2015 season.