July 4, 2023 

Why acquiring Queen Egbo makes sense for Washington Mystics

Swap of centers sends Amanda Zahui B. to Indiana

Around 5 p.m. on the Fourth of July, the Washington Mystics set off some early fireworks with an unexpected trade. Washington acquired second-year center Queen Egbo from the Indiana Fever in exchange for veteran center Amanda Zahui B.

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Egbo was a WNBA All-Rookie Team selection and started 31 games for the Fever last season, but she has come off the bench this year after the Fever drafted Aliyah Boston first overall. The 6’4 Egbo is currently averaging 2.9 points and 4.0 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game and shooting 40.0% from the field. But against the Mystics on June 13, Egbo had six points and 10 rebounds — four offensive — in just 9:47.

On a per-minute basis, Egbo’s scoring is virtually identical to last season, and she has increased her rebounding and block rates, which already ranked in the top 10 in the WNBA last season. In particular, her rebounding should help a Mystics team that ranks second-to-last in the WNBA in total rebound rate, grabbing less than half of all available rebounds.

“This trade was an opportunity to acquire a young post talent that can complement our other post players,” Mystics general manager Mike Thibault said in the team’s announcement. “… Queen is an elite rebounder, one of our biggest weaknesses, and she has been a good shot blocker and defender in her time at Indiana.”

Indiana Fever center Queen Egbo and Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones both try to grab a rebound with two hands, arching their backs and colliding in mid-air.
Indiana Fever center Queen Egbo (4) and Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones (42) fight for a rebound during a game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on May 20, 2022. (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

Egbo is likely to see game action right away, as the Mystics’ frontcourt has been plagued by injuries lately. Starting center Shakira Austin strained her hip on June 25 and is expected to miss at least three weeks. Starting forward and 2023 All-Star Elena Delle Donne also sprained her ankle on June 30 and is still being evaluated. Their absences left Washington with just three available post players on July 2 against Dallas.

After Austin returns, Egbo can provide strong backup minutes now and in the future. Both players are on affordable rookie contracts with the Mystics through 2024, with team options for 2025, giving Washington a young center tandem to anchor the roster.

To get Egbo, the Mystics gave up a veteran player in Zahui B., who had struggled to crack the rotation but was well-liked in the locker room. She had joined the Mystics in the offseason after not playing in the WNBA in 2022 and had hoped to re-establish herself in the league. But in 12 games with Washington, the 6’5 center was averaging a career-low 7.8 minutes per game and shooting just 25.0% from the field.

“[I’m] still transitioning, still getting into the flow,” Zahui B. told reporters in early June. “It’s not happening as quick as I wanted.”

Washington Mystics center Amanda Zahui B. is shown in profile right after releasing a shot. An Atlanta Dream defender contests, and her fingertips appear to graze Zahui B.'s as Zahui B. follows through.
Washington Mystics center Amanda Zahui B. (42) shoots the ball during a game against the Atlanta Dream at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Zahui B.’s best game in a Mystics uniform came against the Phoenix Mercury on June 16, as she scored a season-high seven points to go with four rebounds in 10 minutes off the bench. She also got her lone start of the season on July 2 against Dallas, and she scored six points despite struggling with her shot.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Mystics released guards Abby Meyers and Linnae Harper from their emergency hardship contracts. Meyers and Harper were signed in response to Austin and guard Kristi Toliver being injured and guard Li Meng leaving the team temporarily to compete for China in the Asia Cup. Ending those hardship contracts gave the Mystics just enough salary cap space to execute the trade for Egbo.

Li has now returned from the Asia Cup, but with Austin still out and both Toliver and Delle Donne’s status up in the air, the Mystics may be able to add another player or two on hardships before they play three games in five days starting on Friday.

Their first opponent in that stretch happens to be Amanda Zahui B. and the Indiana Fever.

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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