The Wizards upped their offensive game by paring spread-the-floor shooters with point guard John Wall. The Mystics are trying a similar tact by trading for one of the WNBA's biggest names
In a three-way trade announced on Wednesday, the Mystics acquired Northern Virginia native and Olympian Kara Lawson from the Connecticut Sun while sending guard Matee Ajavon to the Atlanta Dream.
Lawson, 33, played for Mystics coach Mike Thibault when both were with the Sun. The 5-foot-8 guard and former University of Tennessee star averaged 10 points on 40 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc during her 11 seasons. The fifth overall pick in 2003, Lawson won a WNBA title with Sacramento in 2005 and a gold medal with Team USA in 2008.
Ajavon, 27, played five of her six seasons with Washington including season's playoff run. The 5-foot-8 guard with a defensive knack played in 34 games last season with 27 starts, averaging 8.9 points.
"We had a player in Matee who really played for hard us last year," Thibault told CSNwashington following the trade. "But we have some deficiencies that I thought we needed to address. When the opportunity presented itself for a three-way deal to get Kara, who I coached, obviously, it was easy to do."
In its first-year under Thibault, who serves as coach and general manager, Washington finished third in the Eastern Conference with a 17-17 record after winning 11 games combined over the previous two seasons.
Last off-season Washington signed point guard Ivory Latta and drafted perimeter threat Tayler Hill. To reach the next level, Thibault knew more moves must follow, especially since Hill, who is pregnant, will miss part of the season.
Lawson averaged a career-high 15.1 points in 2012, Thibault's final season with the Sun.
"She's a great leader, shooter, obviously stretches the floor," Thibault said. "I think she will take pressure off of Ivory [Latta] and our post players because you have one more spread-the-floor shooting dimension.
"Like the way Trevor Ariza is playing right now [for the Wizards]. Put him and [Bradley] Beal on opposite sides of the floor, makes John Wall's job a lot easier. While Matee did a great job defensively, 3-point shooting wasn't her strength. Especially with Tayler not going to be here the first part of the year, I just thought it was the perfect trade to do."
The Mystics also sent the 18th overall pick in the upcoming WNBA draft to Atlanta while acquiring the 32nd selection and guard Alex Bentley. They subsequently moved Bentley to Connecticut.
Lawson won national player of the year honors while starring locally at West Springfield. Though she only played nine games last season due to injuries and personal matters, Thibault said the 2007 WNBA All-Star "is healthy now."
Lawson also serves as a college basketball broadcaster for ESPN. Her studious habits are one of the reasons Thibault sought Lawson out.
"She does all the little things well, studies, and we need more off that in our locker room," he said. "We made great strides last year, but we were .500. I don't think you can sit still when you're .500. You have to do a couple more things."
The Mystics season opens May 16 against the Minnesota Lynx.