When Tina Charles initiated a trade to the Washington Mystics in 2020 and re-signed in 2021, she wasn't expecting to have the offensive load fall on her. Nevertheless, the 2012 WNBA MVP has taken the reins of the Mystics and is in the midst of a potentially historic campaign.
Charles is the WNBA's leading scorer at 25.8 points per game. Second place is a full 4.5 points behind her with Breanna Stewart at 21.3 ppg. If the season ended today, that 25.8 mark would be the all-time greatest individual scoring season in WNBA history.
The all-time record is held by Diana Taurasi in the 2006 season (25.3 ppg). Taurasi also holds the No. 2 spot with her 2008 season.
"Maybe I think we got to stop giving [Charles] the ball. No, I'm joking," teammate Shavonte Zellous said. "I love Tina, what she's doing right now, obviously, it's unbelievable."
"The stuff she's doing is really unexplainable because it's like she makes it look so easy but when you come in this practice and then you work with her and try to do some of the things she do [sic], it's not as easy as it looks when she's playing. But I commend Tina for taking the time in the offseason to work on her game, to get her to where she's at today because she's made a huge stride. "
The Mystics and Charles aren't even halfway through the season, so there is a long way to go in the scoring title chase. Still, a four-point lead at any point in the season is mightily impressive.
This isn't the first scoring title Charles is pursuing. With the New York Liberty in 2016, Charles won her first title with 21.5 points per game. It was a mere four-hundredths of a point higher than Elena Delle Donne at 21.46.
Similar to her time in New York, though, she's having to do it as a one-person band. Two of the team's top three players are sidelined with injuries - Delle Donne since the start of the season and Alysha Clark for the remainder of the year. She's also without Emma Meesseman who could, or could not, come back after the Olympic break. With the rest of the roster battling injuries, Charles and Ariel Atkins have carried the Mystics through the season.
"She's having to do it I think partly because she feels the pressure to carry us a little bit," head coach Mike Thibault said. "And part of it is because we're short-handed and there aren't other people necessarily out there with her at times of the game that would normally be out there. I think what she's doing on is, statistically, to your point unprecedented, but I think she would give that up in a heartbeat if you could add three more wins to the thing and then flip our record right now."
Once some of those players return, her scoring might slow down a bit. It simply might be because the burden won't fall on her as much. Delle Donne is a 20-point-a-night scorer when fully healthy. Atkins still has a prominent role in the offense. If Meesseman does come back, then there are more post minutes that need to be found for her.
If it results in wins then neither Charles nor Thibault will be complaining. But for Charles to set the all-time mark, she'll need to keep up the pace for Washington's final 18 games.