23-11, .676 (1st in West)
2007 Starting Lineup
2007 Key Reserves
2007 Draft Recap
2008 Key Additions
2008 Key Losses
Although they are a team known for their speed, the 2007 WNBA Champion Mercury got off to a surprising slow start last season. Phoenix held an 11-9 record at the All-Star break, but took off after the midseason hiatus to finish the season atop the Western Conference standings with a 23-11 record. The Mercury swept their first two postseason series against Seattle and San Antonio before meeting the Detroit Shock in the WNBA Finals. The teams put on a memorable championship series, with the Mercury prevailing in five games to become the first team to win the title on the road.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Mercury’s championship run was led by the All-Star trio of Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter, who averaged 19.2, 17.8 and 17.2 points, respectively. Phoenix was an offensive juggernaut; averaging a league-high and WNBA record 89.0 points per game by using the fast-break offense taught by head coach Paul Westhead.
Phoenix’s big three were complimented by point guard Kelly Miller (9.4 points, 4.6 assists) and center Tangela Smith (12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds), who was acquired from Minnesota in a draft day trade for No. 1 pick Lindsey Harding. Coming off the bench, guard Kelly Mazzante was another threat on the perimeter shooting 34% from three point land. As a team Phoenix hit 283 threes in the regular season, the most of any team in the league.
The Phoenix offense reached new heights in the postseason, averaging 95.8 points and led by Finals MVP Cappie Pondexter, who led all playoff scorers with 23.9 points in the Mercury’s nine postseason games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Mercury did not set the league ablaze from day one, as the team struggled with inconsistent play in the first two months of the season. At the All-Star break, Phoenix did not appear to be a championship contender with an 11-9 record. Some of their early season woes could be contributed to incorporating Smith into the lineup and finding the best offensive and defensive sets to compliment the new rotation.
While the 6-4 Smith was the perfect fit at the center position for the Mercury offense, having such a perimeter orientated team often left the Mercury susceptible to matchup problems on defense. They were able to mask some of their deficiencies by utilizing their rover zone defense, but the lack of a tradition center hurt them at times as they gave up a league-high 85.4 points per game. However, when you look at point differential, Phoenix was second in the league at +3.6 points.
FUTURE / NEEDS
Shortly after leading Phoenix to its first championship, Westhead left the Mercury as he accepted an assistant coaching position with the NBA Seattle SuperSonics. With Westhead’s offensive style at the heart of Phoenix’s run to the title, it was not surprising that the organization selected assistant coach Corey Gaines, a Westhead disciple, to take over as the team’s head coach.
Phoenix re-signed free agents Taurasi, Smith and Mazzante to keep the roster intact for another championship run in 2008. The Mercury lost seldom-used reserve Jen Lacy in the Atlanta Dream expansion draft and brought in free agents Le’coe Willingham and Barb Farris to help solidify the bench.
It is still unknown how much time Taylor will miss in 2008 with her obligations to the Australian women’s national team in this Olympic year. Taylor was an important piece in the Merucry’s success in 2007 and replacing her production would be a difficult task if she misses a significant amount of time.
With the loss of Lacy and the possible absence of Taylor, the Mercury could benefit from adding some depth along its frontline in the 2008 WNBA Draft. Phoenix holds the No. 13 pick in the first round, as well as second round (No. 25) and third round (No. 41) picks.