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Mystics to sign defensive-minded center Elizabeth Williams to replace Tina Charles

Tina Charles (31) will be leaving the Washington Mystics while Elizabeth Williams (1) will be headed to the District. (Scott Taetsch for The Washington Post)
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The Washington Mystics are getting defensive.

The team is expected to announce the signing of center Elizabeth Williams on Tuesday, the first day of the WNBA free agency period. Williams agreed to a one-year deal, according to a person with knowledge of the contract.

The addition of Williams gives the Mystics four players, including Natasha Cloud, Alysha Clark and Ariel Atkins, who were all-defensive team selections within the past three seasons.

Williams was the fourth overall pick by the Connecticut Sun in 2015 and played the past six seasons with the Atlanta Dream. The ­6-foot-3, 200-pounder was named the league’s most improved player in 2016, earned an all-star spot in 2017 and was on the all-defensive first team in 2020. She averaged 5.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season while shooting 51.6 percent from the field.

With the Mystics adding Williams, the Tina Charles experiment comes to a close. The WNBA’s 2021 scoring leader will not return to the organization, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Charles was traded from New York to Washington before the 2020 season but opted out of playing that year and didn’t join the team until 2021.

The 2010 No. 1 overall pick came to Washington to try to win her first title, but the Mystics were shorthanded because of injuries the entire season. Elena Delle Donne (back) played just three games, and Clark (foot) missed the entire season. Charles, the 2012 MVP, led the league in scoring out of necessity (23.4 points per game), but she went to Washington thinking a well-rounded roster would mean she didn’t need to carry the load.

Mystics’ Natasha Cloud hopes new league will be viable offseason option for WNBA players

“I just know I need to win a championship before I retire,” the eight-time all-star told The Washington Post after the season. “Obviously, some decisions are going to have to be made, and I have to look into everything. I’m thankful for my year here and just to see how they do things, and [that] will definitely help moving forward.”

Coach/General Manager Mike Thibault acknowledged it was time to hit the reset button after a two-year plan following the 2019 championship season didn’t pan out.

The Mystics also will part ways with 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman. She intends to sign with the Chicago Sky, a person with knowledge of her decision confirmed. Meesseman did not play the 2021 season because of overseas commitments and will move on from the organization that drafted her in the second round in 2013. She was an all-star in 2015 and a key component when the Mystics won their first WNBA title four years later. Meesseman averaged 13 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 2020.

The Mystics agreed to a multiyear deal to keep Myisha Hines-Allen and are close to an agreement with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations. Walker-Kimbrough was a member of the 2019 title team but was part of the trade for Charles. The 5-9 guard was out of the league last season when Thibault brought her back, and she started 13 of the 17 games she played.

Hines-Allen was a second-round pick in 2018 and a member of Washington’s 2019 championship team. Her breakout season came in 2020, when she averaged 17 points and 8.9 rebounds and was named second team all-WNBA. The versatile 6-1, 200-pound forward is just reaching the prime of her career.

The Mystics also own the No. 1 pick in April’s draft.

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