Washington

What free agent center Elizabeth Williams brings to Mystics

Washington

For the first time in a while, the Washington Mystics' major offseason acquisition wasn't a former MVP or a player fresh from a championship roster. This year they went in search of the right fit and, in preparing for another flurry of movement in the WNBA, center Elizabeth Williams became their target.

To most, Williams has had a quietly successful career playing predominantly with the Atlanta Dream. Her most notable skill is the versatility that she shows on the defensive side of the ball, being active in the passing lanes and one of the best shot blockers in the league.

"I've always respected her since she was a young player in college for her ability to talk on defense and kind of be that quarterback that sees everything on the back of the defense," head coach and general manager Mike Thibault told the media. "To block shots and clog the lane and give us a presence. I just think she's so good at that and I think that how she goes about the defensive thing rubs off on other players around her"

Only Brittney Griner has recorded more blocks than Williams has since the Duke product was drafted in 2015. Williams averages 1.68 blocks per game over the course of her career. In her second year in the league, she boasted a career-high 2.32 blocks average.

This reflects just another rung on the ladder as Thibault and the Mystics have built their defensive prowess. When Washington takes the floor this season, four players will have earned All-Defensive honors in the past three seasons. Those include Williams, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins and 2021 addition Alysha Clark. Two of which were brought in during free agency.

 

For Thibault, they now have a complete defensive unit both in the frontcourt and the backcourt. That's what he believes they need to get back vying for a championship.

"I think that for us to be competitive for a championship, we have to be a really good defensive team. And I think that we didn't get to see last year, without Alysha and Elena (Delle Donne) playing, what some of that looked like for us," Thibault said.

Additionally, Thibault thinks that Williams is a vital piece to resetting the team culture that he alluded to doing at the end of the season. In doing so, Tina Charles and Emma Meesseman will not be a part of the equation.

But while everyone is excited about her defensive ability, there's a lot she offers on offense as well. 

"I know everyone talks about me defensively, and obviously I'm going to come in and be that same defensive player, but I'm going to contribute in any way that I can," Williams said. "So I'm just really excited to be part of this, to help compete for a championship, to come in every day as a pro and do what I love with a great group of people. So I'm just excited to be here."

Her new teammates expect her to have an impact in pick-and-rolls and low post situations off of switches. Most importantly, though, is her screening ability which will open up space for the Mystics multitude of scorers. 

Many immediately likened her skills and fit on this roster to now-assistant coach LaToya Sanders. The lengthy forward played a pivotal role in the team's WNBA Finals runs in 2018 and 2019. She didn't boast a loud offensive game, but more did all the little things right, playing her role to perfection on a talent-heavy roster and being a stud on the defensive end. 

"They both are defensive players who block shots and do things," Thibault said. "I said to her and she asked questions about it, of how we can allow her to do more things offensively, which was kind of my starting point with LaToya, when I first started coaching her, I wasn't sure quite where the limitations were or the expansion was on somebody's game. And over the course of a couple of years, LaToya expanded her game and I think that's what Elizabeth is looking at to do here."

No matter how she is utilized, Williams is not one that is going to come in and drastically change what the team is trying to do. For sure she'll have an impact, but she's using this to come into an already established culture and system, and contribute from there. If it's close to Sanders, the championship mold created from 2019 is getting eerily close to returning.