Everyone knows the Phoenix Mercury can score. It’s equally well known that their defense leaves something to be desired, playing a willing part in giving up nearly 86 points per game last year. Like it or not, that is this team’s style, and it’s not going to change any time soon.
As a result of their blistering tempo, the Mercury approach the draft differently than any other team. Their draft board does not resemble any other team’s because they are looking for players that fit in their unique system. In fact, one of the best ways to illustrate Phoenix’s draft strategy is from a pick they didn’t make, when Phoenix traded the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 for Tangela Smith.
Phoenix Head Coach Corey Gaines said that move was originally met with criticism, “and everyone around the league was, ‘Oh told you they’re stupid, they don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t know anything about the WNBA, that system doesn’t work, he’s crazy, what is going on over there?’”
Still, Phoenix realized that what’s good for them might not be understood by the rest of the league.
“We traded the draft choice for the person we needed and we got two championships out of it,” Gaines said. “I think if you ask anybody if they’ll trade the number one draft choice and you get two championships, would you do it? I think they’d do it.“
With four selections in this year’s draft, including the No. 6 pick overall, the Mercury, as evidenced by the story above, will be looking for their type of players. Offensively, if you can believe it, they still have a few needs, even after averaging 89 points a game last year. Phoenix still needs a point guard after trading Temeka Johnson to Tulsa, it could use pivot player that can stretch the defense, and now, it needs to find some way to replace the production of Penny Taylor, lost for the season with a torn ACL.
The point guard will be instrumental to this team’s success because she will need to incorporate Phoenix’s remaining weapons, like Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree, seamlessly. Unfortunately for Phoenix, that solution may not come via the draft.
“There’s probably one point guard in the draft who’s considered, you know, somebody who can come in and play and we’re not sure if (Samantha) Prahalis in Ohio State can really play (in Phoenix’s system) because my point guard is different than most point guards,” Gaines said.
Gaines mentioned Arkansas guard C’eira Ricketts as a player that Phoenix could target for that role.
“I think the guard from Arkansas fits our system,” Gaines said of Ricketts. “She definitely is fast, but of course, our system is different than other people’s systems, so you really can’t go on that. It’s one of those things where someone else’s -- excuse the language -- trash, is a man’s treasure.”
The same problem with finding a point guard, unfortunately, can be said about Phoenix’s need in the post.
“There’s really no five coming out this year that fits my style,” Gaines said. “My fives shoot threes, they stretch the defense. They call them hybrid fours in the NBA , and there’s nobody out there like that.”
Those factors make Phoenix one of the biggest mysteries entering this year’s draft as it looks to improve upon its trip to the Western Conference Finals last year. If they are to unseat Minnesota in the West, they are going to need to do the things they do best -- which are score points, score points and score points -- even though they’ll be without their point guard and second-leading scorer from last year.
-- Anthony Oliva, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
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36. Nyeshia Stevenson
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31. Sha Brooks
41. Marscilla Packer