Editor’s Note: In 2019, Nothing But Nylon created Prestige Rankings, a system designed to display the very best and very worst teams any basketball league has had to offer over history. Using points based upon various accomplishments or failures, we have ranked every WNBA team in multiple ways to show you who has truly run the show since 1997. We’re up to #9 Washington Mystics, but take a look at all of the criteria and defunct teams to get a good idea of how things work.
Years Active: 1998-Present
Prestige Score: 24.7
Prestige Rank: 14/23
Active Rank: 9/12
Until Thibault joined the fight, the situation was dire in Washington. Below-.500 records were a dime a dozen, let alone any playoff success. The Mystics only tallied one season worth triple-digit points based on our criteria from their inception in 1998 to 2016. If not for the successes in 2017 and 2018, Washington would likely find itself behind Chicago, and an already embarrassing score would be all the worse.
Things can change, though, with Washington seemingly leaving its losing ways behind it with its current core and coaching. A championship would do wonders for Washington’s score, as would more deep playoff runs. Right now, the future is looking better than the past, and there’s plenty of room for improvement after the many failures of the team’s first couple of decades.
Washington Mystics Totals
WNBA Championships: 0 |0 points|
WNBA Finals Appearances: 1 |60 points|
Series Wins: 5 |150 points|
Playoffs Wins: 12 |180 points|
Playoffs Byes: 1 |15 points)|
Playoffs Appearances: 11 |144 points|
Regular Season Top Record: 0 |0 points|
Above .500 Regular Season: 6 |24 points|
All-WNBA Player on Roster: 6 |18 points|
MVP on Roster: 0 |0 points|
Coach of the Year: 2 |10 points|
Regular Season Worst Record: 3 |-30 points|
Below .500 Regular Season: 13 |-56 points|
Total points: |519|
Best Year: 2018
On July 24, 2018, Washington was 14-11 following a 94-68 road drumming via Connecticut. From that point on, the team flipped a switch, going 12-3 from then until the WNBA Finals.
Washington finished the regular season 22-12, good for second in the Eastern Conference and the No. 3 seed for the 2018 WNBA Playoffs. The ‘Stics took care of No. 6 Los Angeles with ease, 96-64, to cruise to the Semifinals against the No. 2 seed Atlanta Dream in a best-of-five series. Washington took a close Game 1, but the next two matchups narrowly went Atlanta’s way, forcing the Mystics to fight in two elimination games to advance. In Game 4, 22 points from Kristi Toliver helped fuel the 97-76 rout to create a Game 5 in which Ariel Atkins scored 20 necessary points that propelled Washington into its first-ever WNBA Finals appearance with an 86-81 victory.
But the party would end in the Finals. The No. 1 seed Seattle Storm rolled Washington, 3-0, only allowing the Mystics within striking distance in Game 2.
Elena Delle Donne was the squad’s leading scorer with 21.0 points per contest, as well as the team’s top rebounder with 7.3 boards per game. Toliver (13.8), Atkins (11.4) and LaToya Sanders (10.3) rounded out more of the team’s scoring, with Natasha Cloud and Toliver leading the team in assists, both averaging just under five per outing. It was head coach Mike Thibault’s sixth season in charge in the nation’s capital and the third time in the WNBA Finals, previously losing with Connecticut in 2004 and 2005.
Led by head coach Fred Williams for the most of the year until he was fired with a few regular season games remaining, the Wings narrowly snuck into the playoffs with a 15-19 record, the last team into the postseason with a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference. Dallas lost its opening game of the playoffs, 101-83, to No. 5 seed Phoenix. The two All-WNBA selections of guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and center Liz Cambage provided the campaign the slight edge over 2017 for the team’s best-ever season, albeit a disappointing one with a long losing streak and turmoil making headlines in the final weeks of the year.
Worst Year: 2012
Washington has finished a season with -14 points, meaning it finished below .500 with the league’s worst record and zero positive achievements, twice in its existence. The first time was in 1998, the franchise’s first in operation as an expansion team. The second was in 2012, more than a decade removed from its introduction to the WNBA and with no excuse of novelty and naivete available, which is why we’re calling the 2012 campaign Washington’s worst.
The Mystics started the season off with two wins in their first seven games, and it got so much worse from there. They followed their second victory up with five-straight losses, then four more after a one-game reprieve. Washington defeated Chicago, 75-71 in overtime, on Aug. 19 for its fifth W of the season. From there, the ‘Stics dropped their closing 13 games of the year and ended at 5-29, the worst record in the league by two games. The team only finished two losses off of Tulsa’s record 31 defeated from the year before.
Crystal Langhorne led the scoring with 14.7 points per night. Monique Currie (12.0), Jasmine Thomas (8.2) and Matee Ajavon (7.9) were next, with Langhorne snatching the most rebounds with 6.3 per game. It was Trudi Lacey’s second and final season as Washington’s head coach. She was fired from her positions as head coach and general manager after the season and replaced by Thibault.
In the franchise’s first season in Dallas, the team finished below-.500 at 11-23 under Williams. The team had six double-digit scorers, led by guard Odyssey Sims (14.0 points per game) with Diggins-Smith right behind her (13.1).
Winningest Coach: Mike Thibault
Thibault has been in D.C. since 2013 and taken the team to heights previously unseen in his six full seasons at the helm. His 112 wins are the most of any Mystics coach, and he is responsible for Washington’s only WNBA Finals appearance in 2018. He has led the ‘Stics to five postseasons and got Washington into the Semifinals in 2017 for the first time since 2002. He is the longest-serving head coach in team history, beating out Richie Adubato by more than three years and counting.
No. 12 – Las Vegas Aces
No. 11 – Dallas Wings
No. 10 – Chicago Sky
No. 9 – Washington Mystics
No. 8 – May 17
No. 7 – May 18
No. 6 – May 19
No. 5 – May 20
No. 4 – May 21
No. 3 – May 22
No. 2 – May 23
No. 1 – May 24
Photo credit to Mystics/Ned Dishman/NBA