Washington basketball fans have two reasons to be excited. The Wizards are still alive in the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs, and the Mystics should be very good this WNBA season.
The Mystics made a blockbuster trade to acquire Elena Delle Donne over the offseason. Delle Donne is one of the best female players in the world. She is a three-time WNBA all-star and was voted the league’s most valuable player (MVP) for the 2015 season.
Listed at 6 feet 5 inches tall, Delle Donne is not just big, she is also a terrific all-around player. She has averaged more than 20 points per game the past two seasons. She connected on 42.6 percent of her three-point attempts and 93.5 percent of her free throws last year.
The Mystics added more than just Delle Donne. A lot more. General manager and head coach Mike Thibault signed Kristi Toliver, a savvy point guard who helped the Los Angeles Sparks win the WNBA title in 2016. Washington also drafted University of Maryland star forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Finally, the Mystics added size with 6-5 center Krystal Thomas and energy with forward Asia Taylor.
Put all these newcomers together with returning forward Emma Meesseman and guard Tayler Hill, who each scored more than 15 points a game last season, and the Mystics should have enough talent to challenge the WNBA’s top teams. They should definitely improve on last season’s sorry record of 13 wins and 21 losses.
While Washington should be excited about the Mystics, basketball fans don’t seem excited about the WNBA. The league has been around for more than 20 years but still hasn’t attracted a big following.
Despite a slight bump in attendance last season, the average WNBA game gets a little more than 7,500 fans. That’s a steady decline from the league’s second season, when it drew an average of 10,864 fans per game.
By comparison, the NBA set a record for attendance this past season, averaging 17,884 fans a game. And the NBA has more teams and plays more games.
Another problem for the women’s league is that very few fans watch the games on television. The WNBA games hardly make a bump in the TV ratings.
That’s too bad. A lot of fans — including kids — are missing out. The WNBA has the best women’s basketball players in the world. The games are fun, and tickets are a lot less expensive than most professional sports.
So go see the Mystics. They open their 2017 season Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center against the San Antonio Stars. A team with that much talent won’t disappoint.
Bowen is the author of 22 sports books for young readers. He will lead a sportswriting workshop for kids at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20 at 1 p.m.