The Tina Charles trade was not unexpected, but many did seem surprised by the return the New York Liberty received. This year is going to provide at least some insight into whether Charles’ issues last year were a function of the players around her, particularly guard play, or if Charles is not the player she was, or some combination of both. I have combined the draft night New York Liberty trade with the Phoenix Mercury and the three team trade involving Tina Charles to cover all the recent transactions. I am writing as if this season is happening, as I so dearly hope it does.
For my trade grades, I grade as follows.
A= great trade that the team clearly should do.
B= good trade that makes sense.
C= trade I would not have done, but not terrible.
D= Bad trade.
New York Liberty get: Tayler Hill, 2020 Aces (via Wings) No. 9 pick (Megan Walker), 2020 Mercury No. 10 pick (Jocelyn Willoughby) 2020 Mystics No. 12 pick (Jazmine Jones), 2020 No. 15 pick (Leaonna Odom), Mystics’ 2021 2nd and 3rd round picks.
Washington Mystics get: Tina Charles
Dallas Wings get: Mystics’ 2021 first round pick, Liberty’s 2021 second rick pick.
Phoenix Mercury get: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough
New York Liberty: A-
Given the timelines for building a championship caliber team around Sabrina Ionescue and Charles’ remaining quality years, moving Charles makes a lot of sense. Charles had her worst season last year, posting career low numbers of efg% of 39% and a career low for win shares of -.01 both per Basketball Reference. Her production began to slide the year prior, when her rebound rate fell and turnover rate rose. Charles has been a great player, but is an unrestricted free agent after this year, and has not been nearly as good the last two years.
Given Charles struggles relative to her lofty standards, the Liberty did a good job collecting assets to help get players to put around Sabrina Ionescue. Tayler Hill will likely be bought out, coming off of a couple of injury plagued years and at a position the Liberty are now deep, given she was not particularly efficient even in her best years. The benefits are the draft picks. The Liberty will hopefully hit on at least one of the wings they took with the picks they got. Wing is a position that is hard to fill and is needed next to Ionescue. If 2 or 3 turn out to be rotation level players, or one blossoms into a solid No. 2 next to Ionescue, they will really have had a good trade.
If the Mystics can get Charles back closer to prime Charles, then the Liberty may have gotten too little in return. Then again, given how many good 4s and 5s there are around the league, it’s not clear anyone else was offering anything more.
Washington Mystics: B-
If a fully healthy and present Mystics team were guaranteed, this would have been a c grade from me or maybe lower. However, given that Charles is a durable player and is guaranteed to be here in the US, Charles does provide insurance against Elene Delle Donne being injured, or Emma Meesseman not being able to play this season given travel restrictions around the coronavirus. Charles gives them someone who can soak up minutes and compete hard each night and which will benefit the Mystics in the regular season.
Playoffs are different. In a playoff matchup with their full team, I am concerned that the Mystics are giving up shooting and playmaking for inefficient post play. It will be harder to bench Charles in key moments, or play her fewer minutes in the playoffs, than it was Latoya Sanders. And at this point, Latoya Sanders provides more rim protection than Charles. Charles has preferred not to have to bang with bigger centers, like Griner and Cambage, so how will Washington play Meesseman, EDD, and Charles together? Meesseman at the 5 on D? That worked well enough last year, but only because of the advantages it brought on offense, advantages that will be lessened with Charles’ lack of shooting and playmaking from the perimeter. Big lineups will tower over other teams, but it will be interesting to see if there is enough space inside for EDD or Meeseeman to take advantage with Charles also on the floor.
A few seasons ago Charles showed some ability to shoot the 3, but topped out at 35% on low volume and declined from there the past two years. The WNBA is moving more and more towards shooting at four or five positions on the floor and more modern offenses (outside of the Aces, at least). If Charles has lost a step, and teams are moving towards more shooting, the league might be moving past her. It is hard to see how she will match up against Brenna Stewart and Natasha Howard and a Seattle team that is my favorite to win it all this year. To be clear, Charles should still be a good player, but there is a difference between a good power forward and 7x all star Tina Charles.
Washington clearly hopes that they will be able to get more out of Tina given how much more shooting and effective guard play they have than last year’s Liberty. If she can use the added space on offense to improve her post efficiency, and/or shoot closer to that 35% mark from 3, this grade will be too low. I am so excited to see how this plays out, definitely a situation I would be happy to be wrong.
Dallas Wings: B+
Giving up the 9th pick in this year’s draft for a likely slightly worse draft pick next year to salary dump Tayler Hill is a reasonable decision. It is unlikely that the Wings would have gotten a better deal. Especially given how many picks they had, and the roster crunch they will be facing, this is a deal that helped them punt some of the picks they had down the road. Tayler Hill was unlikely to be in their future plans, especially as they picked Arike Ogunbowale and Tyasha Harris in back to back drafts, along with signing Moriah Jefferson.
Phoenix Mercury: C
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is more ready to contribute this season than Jocelyn Willoughby or whoever the Suns might have taken at 10 had they intended on keeping the pick. A win now move makes sense, given even Diana Taurasi won’t play forever. However, given the curious signing of Bria Hartley, the presence of Diana Taurasi and Skyler Diggins-Smith, a bigger wing seems an area of need. Willoughby at 6’0” seems like she might have been more valuable than another guard shorter than 5’10”. Or who else was available, besides Walker-Kimbrough? Who are the Mercury starting at the 3 and 4 right now? Nia Coffey? Jessica Breland? Decent players, but interesting that the Mercury got another guard rather than wing, given the loss of DeWanna Bonner, who thrived at either 3 or 4 spot and was so important to the team.
Three guard lineups with Taurasi will work against quite a few teams, but interesting to see if that carries over to the playoffs when teams can more effectively target mismatches. Mercury are not known for developing young players. This is a case I would have liked them to try, especially since they will still have Griner to build around even once Taurasi retires.