Washington

What Brittney Sykes brings to the Mystics that Alysha Clark didn't

Washington

Last season the Washington Mystics embraced a defensive identity that led them to be the best defensive unit in the WNBA. This year, that mantra continues as the team signed one of the primer perimeter defenders of this free agency class, Brittney Sykes.

Sykes signed a three-year contract on the first day of free agency with terms of the deal not announced due to team policy. As of this writing, the terms have not been reported either.

She is fresh off a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Sparks where she averaged a $111,650 salary per year. The projected valuation of a deal for Sykes this free agency period isn't expected to be a major increase at $137,000.

But while Sykes is in, one of the key pillars behind the vaunted Mystics defense is out. Alysha Clark, who only ended up playing one season of her big two-year deal, was not re-signed for the upcoming season and instead will play with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces as they continue to collect talent. Structurally, it didn't make sense to have both Sykes and Clark rostered in D.C. when there are other roster areas the front office openly wanted to address this offseason. 

Sykes has the defensive accolades to match (and even surpass) what Clark accumulated in her career. The guard has made three straight All-Defensive Team designations, being named to the first team in 2021. She is one of three players - along with Breanna Stewart and Ariel Atkins - to be named All-Defensive Team each of the past three years. Skyes has also led the WNBA in steals the past two seasons and her aggressive style opens up the floor for more transition opportunities.

 

It's no surprise general manager Mike Thibault called her "a main target in free agency."

At 28 (and in what will be her age 29 season), Sykes is also considerably younger than Clark (35) which gives the team a better outlook long-term. It is possible the Mystics couldn't offer Clark a multi-year deal like she received in Vegas due to the league not allowing a team to have more than six players under contract entering a given offseason.

But the big difference between the two will be what is seen on the offensive side of the ball with Sykes.

"She brings a skill set to our backcourt that perfectly complements our other perimeter players,” Thibault said in a press release “Her speed in transition, ability to get to the basket or find open teammates, will allow us to accelerate our offensive pace and flow.”

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That is something that Washington didn't see with Clark after a big offensive step-back from her career-best 2020 season.

Pushing the pace, being a play initiator will be huge for a team that struggled in half-court offensive sets last year.  Thibault also said he could see her playing in a variety of roles in the lineup, from point guard to wing that gives the backcourt flexibility. That will give both Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins a reprive from their positions on the court, unlike Clark who was primarily a wing player.

"She can play offense and defense at three positions and, as one of the premier defensive guards in the league, she will help us continue to excel as one of the best defensive teams in the WNBA. Brittney is an exciting addition to the Washington Mystics. Welcome to D.C., ‘Slim!,” Thibault said.

Last season Skyes averaged 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and a career-high 3.7 assists. Her field goal percentage was 43.3% from the field and 26.9% from deep.

It doesn't directly address the need for more offense this upcoming season. But she should help them get more easy baskets and possessions. Going from Clark to Sykes, though, won't improve the Mystics from being the third-worst 3-point shooting team in the league in 2022. There is also the back-up center position that is unfilled too. 

Skyes joins second-year player Shakira Austin as the lone two Mystics signed through the 2025 season.