May 12, 2024 

Washington Mystics acquire Jade Melbourne, make other roster moves ahead of season opener

The Mystics will roster 12 players, up from 11 in 2023

WASHINGTON — On Sunday, the Washington Mystics trimmed their roster to 12 players, the maximum number that can be on their opening-day roster. That’s one more player than they’ve been able to keep in recent seasons due to salary-cap constraints, so the front office had a little more wiggle room this time around.

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Yet the path the Mystics took to get to 12, from an original training-camp roster of 16 players, still had a few more twists and turns than anticipated.

On Tuesday, Washington traded center Queen Egbo to the Connecticut Sun. In exchange, the Mystics received the Sun’s 2025 second-round draft pick and the rights to Hungarian center Bernadett Határ. (Határ is not on the opening-day roster but could join the team in future seasons.)

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Egbo played in 21 games for the Mystics in 2023 after they acquired her in a midseason trade. She averaged 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game and shot 54.4% from the field.

The Mystics traded away Egbo in response to a logjam at her position. They had signed veteran center Stefanie Dolson in the offseason, and Dolson started the team’s two preseason games alongside center/forward Shakira Austin.

“Queen was having a good training camp, but … it’s hard to find minutes for a third center,” Mystics general manager Mike Thibault told reporters on Sunday. “… And I know that, in Queen’s case, she wants to play. She’s got some upside.”

Multiple teams expressed interest in Egbo, according to Monumental Sports Network’s Tyler Byrum. Ultimately, Egbo joined a Connecticut team that was in search of better rebounding, Sun head coach Stephanie White told reporters recently. And the Mystics were able to get something in return for a player they might’ve otherwise had to cut.

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The Mystics followed up the Egbo deal by acquiring 21-year-old point guard Jade Melbourne from the Seattle Storm on Saturday afternoon. The 5’10 Australian played in 29 games for the Storm last season and also has experience in Australia’s WNBL and in international competition. In exchange, the Mystics sent only a 2025 third-round draft pick to Seattle, which was facing its own roster crunch ahead of Monday’s roster deadline.

“[Melbourne] does a little bit of everything,” head coach Eric Thibault told reporters on Sunday. “I think she’s aggressive with the ball in her hands getting to the basket. She can pass. … Like some young point guards, she tries a lot of things and she’ll figure out as she gets a little older which ones to try and which ones to play it a little safer. But I like [how] she rebounds the ball. She pushes tempo, she’s athletic, she’s got size. So there’s a lot of intriguing things about her.”

Melbourne will likely be the Mystics’ third point guard behind veteran Brittney Sykes and 31-year-old rookie Julie Vanloo. The team had another point guard on the roster in Kaylynne Truong — its second-round draft pick this season — but waived her on Sunday, after the trade was completed.

“The idea that we could get a young player who also had experience in the league and in other situations … we thought that we would like to go into the season kind of in that mode,” Mike Thibault said about Melbourne. “I thought that the other players in our camp did a good job. They just don’t have that experience.”

Seattle Storm guard Jade Melbourne dribbles the ball with her left hand as she tries to attack to her left. Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud is off balance coming around a screen but stays with Melbourne.
Seattle Storm guard Jade Melbourne (6) tries to get around Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud (9) during a game at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., on July 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Another factor in the Mystics’ decision is that Melbourne is only in the second year of her rookie contract, so the Mystics have her for 2024 and 2025 with a team option for 2026. They can help her develop in the long term, not just this season.

“It’s an opportunity to get a young up-and-coming player and build and mold and just pour into them,” assistant coach Ashlee McGee, who works with the point guards, told The Next on Sunday. “And so that’s kind of the goal, just getting younger, getting faster, getting bigger.”

Melbourne is expected to practice with the Mystics on Monday ahead of their season opener at home on Tuesday. The Mystics have experience teaching players their system quickly, as they had to sign several players to hardship contracts in 2023 in response to injuries. But with Melbourne sticking around longer than a hardship player would, “we won’t overload her all at once,” Eric Thibault said.

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The Mystics now have what is likely to be their opening-day roster, featuring five returners from last season (bolded below) and seven newcomers.

The roster is relatively young, with an average age of 27.02 years old. That is the fifth youngest in the WNBA, and it might drop further if other teams cut young players to finalize their rosters. In Melbourne and Edwards, the Mystics’ first-round draft pick this season, Washington has two of the three youngest players in the league. Both will turn 22 years old over the summer.

Related reading: 2024 WNBA season preview: Washington Mystics

The fact that the Mystics can carry 12 players will give the coaching staff a bit more depth and rotational flexibility than in previous seasons. Eric Thibault noted that both Samuelson and Richards can play power forward in smaller lineups, and most of the guards can play both point guard and shooting guard in spurts. The forwards can also play in different combinations, and Austin will play power forward this season defensively in addition to her usual center spot.

“We [are] trying to prepare ourselves for a long season. You want the answers to a lot of different problems, or at least the opportunity to change it up and mix it up,” Eric Thibault said. “And inevitably you’re going to have somebody out for a couple weeks and you want to make sure you’re covered. So … I like where we’re at.”

The Next’s Noa Dalzell contributed reporting for this story.

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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