Seven-time all-star Tina Charles has been traded to the Washington Mystics in a three-team deal that will send Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Tayler Hill to the New York Liberty, according to the AP’s Doug Feinberg. In addition, the Liberty will receive the No. 9 and 15 picks from the Dallas Wings, and No. 12 pick from the Mystics in Friday’s draft. The Wings will receive the Mystics’ 2021 first-round pick and Liberty’s 2022 second-round pick.
The WNBA’s reigning champion Mystics just pulled off a heist, moving late draft picks and a role-player for one of the league’s aging, but still quality, superstars. Charles averaged 17 points per game last season with eights rebounds and two assists, though she shot a career-low 39 percent from the field last season. Still, it was a low cost for a potential high-ceiling return.
Let’s breakdown what exactly happened.
The Mystics are beyond stacked. It’s terrifying. But there are questions.
The Mystics were debatably the favorite to win a second consecutive championship before this move was made. The Seattle Storm, with a healthy Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, were their biggest preseason competition.
D.C. lost Kristi Toliver in free agency to the Los Angeles Sparks over guaranteed money, and instead opted to pay a not-as-good, but still very solid replacement in Leilani Mitchell. Otherwise the rest of the group that ravaged the league into oblivion, crushing offensive records by the day, was back. Now they’ve add a scoring legend to the mix.
How Charles fits into the group is a head-scratcher, at least for now, though. Without Toliver, the Mystics could likely have started a group that includes all-star snubs Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins, MVP Elena Delle Donne, Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and defensive anchor LaToya Sanders. Then bring Aerial Powers, Tianna Hawkins and Mitchell off the bench. That lineup probably shouldn’t change, though it’d require Charles to do something she’s never done in her entire career — come off the bench.
The Mystics’ offense thrives because of its defensive versatility and aggressive shot-making from the perimeter. Charles, at 31 years old, is a few steps slower than she used to be moving laterally, and she’s never been much of an outside shot-maker (29 percent for her career.) If she replaces Sander for stints, she could be extremely effective in a rim-protecting and mid-range role. It’s just not something she’s done before.
The move has risks, especially if Charles isn’t as willing as she thinks she’ll be to play a decreased role. But the costs were minimal. Walker-Kimbrough was a deep-bench player, and the draft picks surrendered may not have even made the Mystics’ final roster anyway.
Why did the Liberty make this move?
The Liberty are rebranding in a new city, and the all-time leading scorer in the franchise’s history didn’t fit the new model. When the WNBA season does resume, everyone expects Sabrina Ionescu will be wearing a black and green jersey in Brooklyn, next to Asia Durr and Kia Nurse, the team’s first-round picks in the previous two drafts. New York is getting younger and has the building blocks to push pace and space the floor like the league’s elite teams now. That’s just not in Charles’ game.
What did the Liberty get?
The Liberty get a fresh start with another set of picks. Ionescu will go No. 1. The question is who will be there at No. 9, 12 and 15. Ruthy Hebard, one of Ionescu’s screen-and-roll running mates at Oregon, could be there at 9. Maybe with the other picks, they’ll opt for another shooter in South Carolina Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, or take a flier on 6’7 Miami post Beatrice Mompremier. New York will have options.
Still, it’s unlikely this return will net them anyone close to Charles’ talents. New York has been fielding offers for Charles all offseason, but watched as teams filled cap space to retain players or trade for other stars. Her market shriveled up, and the Mystics took advantage of that.
What did the Wings get?
The Wings are the toughest team in the WNBA to get a read on. They’re sitting on a ton of draft assets with little roster space and only one surefire star piece in Arike Ogunbowale. Dallas wasn’t going to keep all four of its first-round picks in the 2020 draft, but the market for them was dry. This might’ve been one of a small list of moves they could’ve made.
This trade will buy Dallas time to figure themselves out and pick from of a potentially better draft class. Tayler Hill was unlikely to play in this year’s rotation as Ogunbowale and Moriah Jefferson have possibly phased out her minutes anyway. Still, their return seems paltry. The Mystics’ first-round pick in 2021 is likely to be in the bottom-two, and second-round picks could be cut more frequently than ever in the WNBA’s new economy.
So who won?
- The Mystics just got a legend for a small asking price.
- Charles finally has a chance to win a WNBA title.
And who lost?
- The Liberty’s return to Charles is fine, maybe. Walker-Kimbrough can play. But the trade is nothing to brag about.
- The Wings, maybe? It’s hard to call them a winner.