One day after losing Kristi Toliver, Mystics ink Delle Donne to a four-year deal
On Tuesday, the Washington Mystics re-signed 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, closing the deal on a verbal agreement that had been reached last week. The four-year deal will pay Delle Donne the supermax of $899,480 over the next four seasons, High Post Hoops has learned. With Delle Donne turning 31 in September, this contract could potentially keep her in DC for the rest of her career.
This contract had been widely expected around the WNBA, as Delle Donne forced a trade from Chicago to DC three years ago and has spoken highly of her time with the Mystics. Playing in DC allows her to be close to her family in Delaware, including her sister Lizzie, with whom she shares a special bond. (Lizzie was a big reason why Elena wanted to be traded to the Mystics in 2017 and why she does not play overseas in the offseason.)
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However, the predictability of this move doesn’t make it any less momentous for the Mystics. Delle Donne had a career season last year, shooting the ball more accurately than any player in WNBA history and winning her second career MVP trophy in a landslide. Through three seasons in DC, she has averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 85 regular-season games and already ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in eight statistical categories. In Tuesday’s announcement, Thibault called Delle Donne “the most impactful player in the history of the Washington Mystics.”
Thibault added that he was “thrilled” to re-sign Delle Donne and excited to defend the team’s 2019 WNBA championship. Delle Donne matched her coach’s enthusiasm, commenting, “Everyone at the Mystics welcomed me and [my wife] Amanda with open arms and made this our home. I’m thrilled to be returning for another four years and look forward to defending our title this season in front of the best fans in the world. All I have to say is let’s go ‘Stics!”
Delle Donne re-signing with the franchise is especially important in light of what has transpired around the WNBA since free agency opened on Monday. In a surprise move, the Mystics’ other 2019 All-Star, Kristi Toliver, signed with Los Angeles instead of staying in DC. Without Toliver, a high-IQ player who was a leader on the court and in the locker room, Delle Donne’s continued leadership will be crucial for the Mystics in 2020.
In addition, the 2018 WNBA champion Seattle Storm has its stars back from injury, and teams such as the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces—which both lost to the Mystics in the playoffs last season—added talent that could give them even stronger rosters in 2020. The 2020 schedule will be daunting, and the Mystics likely needed to keep Delle Donne in order to be competitive. Expect much closer games in 2020 than the Mystics had last year, when their average margin of victory was a WNBA-record 19.5 points. With the game on the line, Thibault will likely look to Delle Donne and WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman, who is expected to re-sign with the team this offseason, to take and make the biggest shots.
One wrinkle in that plan, at least in the short term, might be Delle Donne’s health. On January 24, Delle Donne had “minor” back surgery to help repair the injury she suffered during last year’s championship run. The Mystics announced that Delle Donne was expected to return to play by the start of the season and that an update would be provided at the beginning of training camp. On January 30, Thibault offered more details on the Winsidr WNBA Show:
"“The surgery went well; it [has provided] some relief already for Elena. … The expectation is that she can be back on the court sometime between three and four months, which would put her at training camp for us and start of the season.”"
Thibault added, “I know that there’s a lot of people alarmed and [saying] we’re in trouble, but everybody here feels really good about the process so far.” In some ways, that mirrors what has transpired with free agency: without Toliver, the Mystics do not look as strong as they were in 2020, which may alarm some fans. But, with Delle Donne under contract for four more seasons, Thibault and the Mystics are feeling confident and optimistic about the season ahead.
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