January 29, 2023 

Brittney Sykes set to sign with Washington Mystics in free agency

Sykes will replace Alysha Clark, who has agreed to terms with Las Vegas

Six-year WNBA veteran Brittney Sykes is expected to sign with the Washington Mystics once free agents are allowed to sign contracts starting on Feb. 1, The Next’s Howard Megdal first reported on Sunday.

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Sykes was drafted No. 7 overall in 2017 out of Syracuse University and played three seasons with the Atlanta Dream, followed by three seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. In 182 regular-season games, including 115 starts, the 5’9 guard has averaged 11.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.

Signing Sykes would make a lot of sense defensively for the Mystics, as they were the WNBA’s top defensive team in 2022 and have said they want to build on that in 2023. The 28-year-old Sykes has earned three straight All-Defensive Team honors, putting her in good company with the Mystics’ returning backcourt of Natasha Cloud (two career selections) and Ariel Atkins (five straight). Sykes has also led the WNBA in steals per game in each of the past two seasons.

However, it remains to be seen how well Sykes will fit with the Mystics offensively. She is not a strong 3-point shooter and therefore is a curious target for general manager Mike Thibault. Thibault indicated in September that one of his top priorities was to improve the team’s offense, and Thibault-led teams have typically attempted and made lots of 3-pointers. Sykes shot her best percentage from 3-point range, 33.6%, as a rookie in 2017, and she has shot under 27.0% from that distance in four of the past five seasons.

That’s not to say that Sykes can’t put up points, though: Last season, she scored a career-high 35 points on 13-for-17 shooting against the Dallas Wings on Aug. 14, and she scored 20-plus points in three other games. That included 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting against the Mystics on Aug. 7 in a game that both teams sorely needed for playoff positioning and that the Sparks ultimately won.

Much of Sykes’ offense comes from the free-throw line, and that driving ability could help the Mystics by forcing defenses to rotate, switch and foul. In her career, she has gotten over 20% of her points at the line, and her rate of getting to the free throw line in 2022 (32.2%) was higher than any of the Mystics’ regular rotation players except for center/forward Shakira Austin.

Known for her speed, Sykes should also help the Mystics push the pace, which was an offseason goal for the team after ranking last in the league in that category in 2022. Sykes and Cloud should be a dynamic pair in transition, and they have frontcourt players who can run with them in Austin and Myisha Hines-Allen (who is recovering from offseason knee surgery but is expected to be healthy for 2023). Sykes can also run the halfcourt offense at times, giving the Mystics flexibility with their perimeter lineups.

Sykes is expected to sign a three-year contract with Washington, as first reported by Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV. That would make her and Austin the only two Mystics players under contract through 2025. Last season, Sykes earned $113,300 on an unprotected contract, and she was one of the more productive players at her salary level. According to Her Hoop Stats, only one player who was on a contract worth $100,000-$140,000 last season averaged more than Sykes’ 12.7 points per game, and only two had better player efficiency ratings than Sykes’ 15.7.

As a result, Sykes could be in line for a raise with this contract with Washington. Our staff at The Next projected in mid-January that she would sign a contract worth an average of $137,000 per year. That figure would still leave room for the Mystics to sign another high-level player, though not one who would command a maximum contract.

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However, that high-level player will not be wing Alysha Clark, who was the Mystics’ highest-profile free agent. The Next‘s Howard Megdal first reported on Sunday that Clark has agreed to sign with the Las Vegas Aces once contracts are allowed to be finalized. Clark signed a two-year contract with Washington in 2021 but missed the entire 2021 season due to injury. Last season, she averaged 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.9 steals in 26.4 minutes per game and helped anchor the Mystics’ defense. Sykes will seemingly slot in to replace Clark’s contributions on both ends.

Adding Sykes signals the Mystics’ continued commitment to being a top defensive team and gives them options on the perimeter, especially without Clark. But it doesn’t solve their offensive challenges from 2022. For that, we’ll need to wait and see what else Thibault and his staff have up their sleeves in free agency.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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