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WNBA Free Agency: Brittney Sykes to sign with Washington Mystics

WNBA Free Agency: Brittney Sykes to sign with Washington Mystics

As the WNBA world continues to wait for the Breanna Stewart domino to fall — she's reportedly choosing between joining the New York Liberty or returning to the Seattle Storm — we're starting to get free-agency movement elsewhere.

First reported by Howard Megdal of The Next, the Washington Mystics are set to sign guard Brittney Sykes once deals are eligible to be finalized. A few minutes later, Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports reported that Sykes' deal will be for three years. 

The Mystics were The W's best defense last season, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions. Their guard duo of Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins led the way — both earned a spot on the All-Defensive First Team last season. Adding Sykes to this group seems to be an aggressive double-down of their ethos.

Sykes is coming off a strong defensive campaign in her own right. She was selected to the All-Defensive Second Team behind her event creation. Not only did she lead The W in steals (2.0, 65 total), she was one of two players under 6-feet to block at least 20 shots (22), with Mercury star Skylar Diggins-Smith (30) being the other.

Adding Sykes to a roster with Cloud, Atkins, rookie standout Shakira Austin and underrated Elena Delle Donne is unfair for opposing offenses. The cast could be stronger if they're able to retain any of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (UFA), Elizabeth Williams (UFA) or the point-of-attack hounding of Rui Machida (reserved free agent).

The offensive fit seems less clear, at least on the surface.

While the Mystics were an elite defense last season, they ranked seventh (out of 12) in offensive rating (101.7) — and were closer to 10th (Sparks, 97.6) than fourth (Wings, 104.6). Delle Donne missing 11 games played a part into that, as they scored at an elite clip with her on the floor, but that undersells some of the issues they worked through in half-court settings.

Even with Delle Donne on the floor, teams were able to comfortably sag off at least two players (Cloud, Austin) to shrink the floor. Sykes doesn't solve that spacing issue; she's a career 28.9% shooter from deep, and has effectively cut that shot out of her diet over the past two seasons (averaging 1.5 attempts).

There are areas where Sykes can help. Her downhill juice — and willingness to push outside of traditional transition settings — could help put pressure on defenses. She took 114 shots at the rim, and got to the line 3.5 times a game last season; the rim number would've led the Mystics, and the free-throw attempts would've ranked second to Delle Donne (3.7).

The Mystics as a whole struggled to garner much traction inside. Only 25.2% of their shots came at the rim last season, the third-lowest mark in the league. Their free throw rate — the percentage of possessions that ended in a free-throw attempt — ranked eighth in the league. 

Sykes also showcased the ability to handle more on-ball opportunity last season. Scoring is still Sykes' primary calling card, but it's worth noting that she averaged a career-high 3.7 assists last season. She's had even more responsibility overseas, where she's averaging nearly 5 assists per game, via InStat tracking.

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