Washington Mystics sign guard/forward Essence Carson

Carson adds versatility, leadership, size on the perimeter for the defending champions

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Phoenix Mercury guard Essence Carson shoots in a game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun on July 12, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

On Friday, the Washington Mystics filled one of their available roster spots for the 2020 season by signing veteran guard/forward Essence Carson. Carson spent last season with the Phoenix Mercury and won a championship with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

Carson was drafted by the New York Liberty in 2008 with the No. 7 pick and has played in the WNBA for 12 seasons, reaching the postseason nine times. She has played nearly 350 games in her career and has averaged 7.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 32.6 % from 3-point range. Her best season statistically came in 2013, when she averaged 14.3 points per game on 55.0 % shooting from the field.

“We are excited to add Essence to our team,” Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said in the team’s announcement. “Her ability to play several positions and her veteran leadership will be a great addition. Above all, she’s a proven winner.”

Carson’s versatility will be extremely helpful for Thibault, who used a variety of lineups last year and is likely to do the same this season. At 6’0, Carson will be able to play either guard position or on the wing, which will help compensate for starting point guard Natasha Cloud’s decision not to play in 2020 and provide depth at the other two positions.

She will also give the Mystics more size on the perimeter, as she is much taller than Aerial Powers (5’9), Ariel Atkins (5’8), and Leilani Mitchell (5’5) and the same height as wing Kiara Leslie.

Carson will look to rebound from a tough 2019 season in which she played in only 23 regular-season games and shot just 35.2 % from the field. She suffered a midseason calf injury, causing her to miss five weeks, and was limited when she returned, averaging less than 12 minutes per game compared to 18.5 per game for the season. Carson also was less effective on defense in 2019 than in previous seasons, posting the worst defensive rating and fewest defensive win shares of her career.

Shortly after the Mystics announced her signing, Carson tweeted, “Stay down for the come up,” seemingly referring to a comeback.

By signing Carson, the Mystics are likely betting that she can be more effective in a smaller role than she had to take on in Phoenix, which dealt with several injuries last season. The deal also reunites Carson with two of her former teammates, Mitchell and Tina Charles. Carson played with Mitchell in New York (2008-13) and Phoenix (2019) and with Charles in New York (2014-15).

She will be another veteran on a Mystics team that is expected to return several experienced players, including Charles and 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, but had two important leaders elect to sit out this season in Cloud and forward LaToya Sanders.

This move gives the Mystics ten players on their roster for the shortened 2020 season in Bradenton, Florida. They will need to sign at least one more player to meet the league minimum of 11 players and could potentially add a 12th player, depending on the salary they agreed to with Carson. However, whatever moves are left to come, signing Carson gives the Mystics added depth, size, and leadership as they look to defend their 2019 championship.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.