Washington

Mystics waive three players to allow roster flexibility

Washington

As is the norm every season, on the day where player contracts became fully guaranteed in the WNBA there is a gluttony of roster moves made for teams to save on cap space.

That was no different for the Washington Mystics who waived three players - Kiara Leslie, Stella Johnson and Megan Gustafson - before the deadline. 

As head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said, these moves were mostly to allow for some roster flexibility for the remainder of the season. If the three players were against the Mystics cap, there wouldn't be enough financial opportunity to make an additional move toward the end of the year. Even if Washington were to release a player, the team would still be on the hook for their contract unless signed elsewhere. 

"We weren't in a position that we wanted to guarantee those contracts the rest of the season," Thibault said.

"It's just one of those things that going forward we wanted some cap space to kind of figure out our roster. With all the injuries we've had, we felt that we needed some flexibility going forward."

All three of the players waived were deep down the Mystics depth chart. Of the team's 14 games, only Leslie (nine) had played more than half, averaging less than 10 minutes in those contests. All three players had the fewest per-game minutes on the roster.

Leslie is the most surprising release as she was the team's last first-round pick in 2019. Although she dealt with her fair share of injuries, she was still on her rookie deal and was a part of the team's young core of players behind established stars.

 

Gustafson was signed via a hardship waiver after several players hit the injury report last week. When some of those players come back the waiver then expires and the team will no longer be able to keep her on the roster. Still, Washington would have to pay out the contract if she was listed as a member of the team on the deadline. 

It is anticipated that the center will be re-signed by the team if not claimed on waivers. That could be the case with the other players as well depending on other moves in the league. 

Last season the team attempted a similar cost-cutting move with Shey Peddy, with the intent to re-sign her. Peddy decided to go to the Phoenix Mercury after getting released rather than come back to D.C.

"With Stella and Kiara, it was a decision on our part to, number one, see where the rest of the league is with waivers. At the end of the day, there are some other people we have looked at and we've debated about," Thibault said.

As of this writing, eight players across the league were waived likely in a similar situation since Sunday. That includes 2020 No. 3 overall pick Lauren Cox of the Indiana Fever. 

None of the moves affected the possibility of Emma Meesseman being signed following the Olympic break. She played the first half of the season overseas due to international team obligations with Belgium's national team. Thibault said that the organization had already built up enough salary cap space to sign her on a prorated deal if she chose to play for Washington this season.