WNBA season in review: Washington Mystics remain solid despite early exit

Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics fell to the Seattle Storm in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics’ season ended Sunday after they fell to the Seattle Storm in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

No. 5 seed Seattle pulled off back-to-back wins in closely contested matchups, sweeping the No. 4 seed Mystics. While the early exit brought an abrupt end to a promising season, the Mystics maintain a solid core heading into 2023.

Washington Mystics: Year in Review

What went right?

Despite the very short playoff run, the Mystics easily could put a positive spin on their season after flipping their 12-20 record from 2021 into a 22-14 record in 2022. Washington ended the regular season as one of five teams with a winning record.

Former WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne returned to the court consistently for the Mystics after nearly two years away due to injury. The 32-year-old started in 25 games during the 2022 campaign, averaging 17.2 points, 6.3, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game.

As a team, the Mystics finished third in 3-point percentage at 45.7 behind stellar shooting from Natasha Cloud. Ariel Atkins was critical as well, logging 14.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Shakira Austin made a case for Rookie of the Year.

The team also finished the season with the best defensive rating in the league at 96.0.

“We fought,” Atkins said. “I still think we got better. I’m proud of the trajectory of our team. I’m very proud of the foundation we have here in the Mystics organization.”

What went wrong?

While the Mystics boasted the best defense in the league, stops didn’t always transition to offensive production. The team finished with the lowest pace of play in the WNBA at 78.38 possessions per game.

Washington lacked the firepower of teams like Las Vegas, Chicago and Seattle, putting the squad at a significant disadvantage, especially during the postseason.

Though many things clicked for Washington this season, offensive ingenuity remained a consistent challenge.

What comes next?

Cloud warned the team against using its past successes as a crutch, saying after the playoff loss, “I’m tired of talking about past years.” Still, as Atkins noted, the Mystics can point to the 2022 campaign as a solid foundation to build upon.

Cloud, Atkins and Delle Donne will return all with one year remaining on their contracts, and they will be hungry to make a title run with the seasoned squad. Austin also will be back after a sensational rookie season.

Washington may look to add some offensive firepower to the mix, and the team should have plenty of options with a lottery pick and money left over in the salary cap.