- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Washington Mystics acquired New York Liberty center and former league MVP Tina Charles on Wednesday in a blockbuster three-team deal that saw the Mystics send guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and their next two first-round picks to other teams.

The Liberty received Walker-Kimbrough from Washington and Tayler Hill from the Dallas Wings. Dallas acquired Washington’s 2021 first-round pick and New York’s 2021 second-rounder. The Liberty also received the Mystics’ 2021 second- and third-rounders.

Charles, 31, was the first overall pick in 2010, the WNBA MVP in 2012 and a two-time Olympic gold medalist after a decorated career at the University of Connecticut. She led New York last season with 16.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game; for her career, she has averaged 18.3 points and 9.7 boards per game.

After playing four seasons for the Connecticut Sun and five for the Liberty, Charles has yet to win a WNBA title, something that could be accomplished with the defending champion Mystics. The Mystics beat Connecticut in five games in last year’s finals, lost only guard Kristi Toliver in free agency and appear to be reloaded for another championship run — with Charles, reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne, WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and center LaToya Sanders in their frontcourt alone.

Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault coached Charles with the Sun. On a conference call with reporters, he said Charles will make it tough for opponents to double-team any individual player and further praised her rebounding and outlet passing.

Thibault said Delle Donne will play more at the small forward spot in 2020 as a result, and implied Sanders will be comfortable coming off the bench.

“The fact that you have players like Elena who are so moveable around the court,” Thibault said, “I even got to the point of thinking, I might be able to play her at the two a little bit some against certain teams and be really big.”

In win-now mode, Washington decided to give up two first-round picks and the rest of their 2021 selections to bring Charles into the mix. WNBA drafts are three rounds long, so at present the Mystics have no selections in 2021. They still own the No. 24 and No. 36 picks in the 2020 draft, which will be held Friday in a “virtual-only” format.

“We just got one of the best players in the draft,” Thibault said, jokingly referring to Charles’ availability by trade, “so I’m not worried about the draft at this point.”

The Liberty allowed Charles to seek a trade “a couple months ago,” Thibault said, and she agreed on a move to Washington in recent weeks, leading the Mystics to negotiate the mega-deal.

Charles chose to sign a one-year deal with Washington over longer options.

Thibault said it was because she wanted to see how she’d fit in with the Mystics’ roster. The start of the WNBA season, however, is delayed indefinitely and it’s unknown when — or if — the season will be fit in.

But Thibault, calling it a “calculated risk,” said he saw no downside to the move.

“If I had not coached her before, maybe it would have been a little bit different,” the coach said. “But I think if this experience in Washington is what I think it will be for her, then there would be no reason for her not to want to come back here.”

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