The Summitt Slack Summit: Where do the Mystics go from here?

Washington Mystics guard Tayler Hill handles the ball in a game against the Minnesota Lynx. Photo by Abe Booker, III
Washington Mystics guard Tayler Hill handles the ball in a game against the Minnesota Lynx. Photo by Abe Booker, III /

Every Monday, The Summitt staff takes a few minutes to talk about the latest happenings from around the WNBA. Below, you’ll find the transcript of our discussion, which took place in our Slack room this morning.

Howard Megdal: Welcome to the latest Summitt Summit, everybody!

A lot to get to, but let’s start with the New York team, at the risk of some east coast bias

We saw them run the gamut over the course of three days, and I’d love to begin with the Friday night struggles, particularly from Kiah Stokes, which @rsteinberg touched on in his most recent piece. Russ, what did you make of the scene at The Garden?

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 23: Kiah Stokes
PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 23: Kiah Stokes /

Russell Steinberg: It seems like there was such a stark difference between Friday night and Sunday, and I wish I had been there Sunday to see it. You mentioned Kiah’s struggles, and I wrote about them, but the team as a whole has seemed to lack much of an identity at times. Tina Charles is Tina Charles, but there wasn’t much else around her to help out. Shavonte Zellous has been, I think, a pleasant surprise, and Kia Vaughn has played well, but there isn’t really a consistent second option.

It’s strange because on paper, the Liberty should be better than they were last year, and we all know they were pretty good last year.

Howard: It’s true, and I think something you got out of Bill Laimbeer is a reason why. The Liberty thrive defensively. And Stokes is central to that identity since the moment she arrived. So when she simply isn’t on the court as much, they need to make it up some other way. And without that clear second option, let alone a third one, it’s difficult. Sunday, Washington missed so many shots, they could operate in transition much of the time. But expecting teams to shoot below 30 percent is not a way to consistently win.

I do think what happened this weekend to Washington is troubling. Not only is Tayler Hill out for the year, and Elena Delle Donne now missing for at least the present, but the Mystics really didn’t seem to show up Sunday. @lindsay do you think between this and the big leads blown to Los Angeles and Connecticut, we’re seeing that the Mystics aren’t yet in the league’s elite?

Lindsay Gibbs: yeah, it’s been an incredibly awful couple of weeks for the Mystics. No other way to put it. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong, but I’m seeing the inconsistency and lack of focus that doomed them last season rear its head again. It’s pretty inexplicable, considering how good they seem when they’re on.

Howard: It’s fascinating for just that reason—they have a good chance of finishing somewhere 5-8, which means some team is going to have the unenviable task of facing them with season on the line

In a one game playoff

LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 02: Tayler Hill
LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 02: Tayler Hill /

Lindsay: Yeah, and that would be a true toss-up

The Tayler Hill injury will leave everyone reeling for a bit — she’s such an integral part of what they do, and is incredibly close with her teammates. However, she hadn’t been playing well the few games before her season-ending injury as well, so they should be able to overcome that especially considering their depth in the guard spot. Ivory Latta will be given much more time, as will rookie Shatori Walker Kimbrough.

Howard: More Ivory Latta is always fine by me, and I am very high on SWK’s prospects.

Lindsay: You’re higher on SWK than I am, I think — she has looked pretty lost out there at times. However, there’s definitely a big upside. Mostly, the Mystics just need to remember how to make shots. I think they shot around 26 percent against the Liberty over the weekend. That will not cut it.

make that 27.7 percent

Howard: That’s fair, I think she’ll figure it out, though, and she gives them precisely what they need—that shooting touch. Meanwhile, one team that beat Washington lately is Los Angeles, and it is generally acknowledged they are the second-best team in this league. @splitthepost, you’ve seen them in person lately- is that your take? Or are the Sun in that discussion, too?

Ben Dull: I felt from the start of the season that the Lynx and Sparks were alone at the top. I’ll own it if someone wants to call me out for favoring the champs. But I’m really high on the additions the Sparks made at guard. The Sun are fantastic. But we saw what Ogwumike and Parker can do in their most recent match up.

Howard: That one was really telling to me, agree

Sun gave them best they had, LA stayed with it and countered, just as against Washington

As for the team at the very top, well, Mike was with them again on Sunday. Mike, they are 15-2, which is halfway to 30-4, which would be the most regular season wins in WNBA history. You think they get it?

Mike Peden: It’s possible, but if they clinch the top seed early as they have in the past, that’s when you see the Lynx experiment with a few lineup combinations that can throw a wrench at the wins record

However, what makes them so tough to stop this year is their smarts. Sylvia Fowles has figured out virtually every double team thrown at her; Phoenix was able to hang with Minnesota for a while by limiting her touches in the first half, but in the second, Fowles worked her way to the free throw line to pick up points.

Last night’s game was a microcosm of their unrivaled depth. Some may scoff since Griner and Taurasi were both out, but when you have wit and talent, well, you’re a favorite to at least make the Finals every year. 30 wins would be a nice touch for the Lynx, but for now, I’ll be watching for another contender to take on Fowles in the MVP race. With Griner out for several weeks, Fowles is the clear front-runner now.

PHOENIX, AZ – JUNE 30: Sylvia Fowles
PHOENIX, AZ – JUNE 30: Sylvia Fowles /

Howard: Totally agree. I think Syl might go wire-to-wire with this one. Okay, biggest things you guys are looking for ahead of Seattle this Saturday? For me, it is which Liberty team shows up Wednesday against Connecticut, the Friday lackluster effort against Chicago or the Sunday rout of Washington squad. And speaking of Chicago, they are awfully fun to watch right now with Dolson and Vandersloot. Wrote a bit about them today, their window might be closer than we thought. What else are you guys looking at this week?

Ben: Important week for the Dream and Fever. Indiana can pick up some much needed road wins, and Atlanta has some really winnable games

Lindsay: I’m excited to get an up-close look at the Storm and Sky this week in Seattle — the Sky have been pretty awful in their Mystics games, so interested to see this improvement you’re talking about, Howard.

Mike: This may seem obvious, but I’m curious about the impending replacements for the All-Star Game; EDD and Griner won’t be available. As far as games, the Wednesday matinee with Dallas and Minnesota could be entertaining; the Wings have the offense to keep pace with the Lynx, and a win on the road would be a big momentum boost.

Lindsay: The Mystics absolutely must stop the bleeding and get a win against the Dream on Wednesday. No word on EDD yet, though I think there’s some optimism there.

(unless I’ve missed an EDD announcement)
Mike: I should clarify that EDD’s status was based on WNBA sources I read in the Twittersphere.
Howard: Nobody is more miserable than EDD when she can’t play basketball. Was awful to see her on the bench Sunday.

Doug Feinberg is good sources, Mike :slightly_smiling_face:
Ben: Hoping to see 25+ minutes for Natasha Cloud give the injuries in Washington. Have enjoyed her this season in thatrole she’s had off the bench on both ends

Howard: Well, this is going to be quite a week. But aren’t they all? Thanks, everybody!