Draft Day Deal Brings Veteran Smith to Phoenix

By Josh Greene, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: April 4, 2007

On a day that's typically all about building toward the future, the Phoenix Mercury opted for new veteran talent to take care of business now.

Last season’s highest scoring team traded their No. 1 pick in Wednesday’s WNBA Draft for Minnesota Lynx forward/center Tangela Smith. Ranked among WNBA career leaders in points, rebounds, blocks, minutes and field-goals made, the nine-year veteran is one of only 21 players in league history to record over 2,000 points and 1,000 boards, and gives Phoenix an inside-outside threat who can work both ends of the floor.

Although the deal was finalized on Draft Day, it was just one possible scenario the Mercury were mulling over before moving Duke guard Lindsey Harding for Smith in a straight-up swap.

“A Tangela Smith deal was one we liked weeks ago,” Head Coach Paul Westhead explained, “but it just didn’t move forward. All of a sudden it came our way, and we were fully ready to go her way, because she is the best player to help make our team successful this year.

“She’s perfect for my system – she’s 6-4, runs, shoots the ball well from the outside and the inside. She’s got a great inside game for a big. She’s a career 12-point-, five-rebound-a-night player. She’s an experienced vet who’ll really help with what we are doing with our core players Diana Taurasi, Kelly Miller, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor. She is the perfect fit.”

Selected by Minnesota in the recent Dispersal Draft, Smith averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg last season for the now-defunct Charlotte Sting. In addition to career averages of 11.9 ppg and 5.1 rpg, the 30-year-old hit a season-best 11 field goals against the Mercury on July 22, 2006, and averaged 19 points in the two-game season series vs. Phoenix.

Now she joins that same Mercury squad that’s coming off a franchise-best seven straight wins to close out the 2006 season.

“Our outside game with Cappie, Diana, Penny and Kelly is huge,” Phoenix General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said. “We wanted to fill in that void in the middle. Tangela is a five-time All-Star. She played in Sacramento and has been to the playoffs. She has really great leadership, she’s long, and she’s a defensive player. She’s played against everybody in this league for a long time. And offensively, she can hit the outside shot face-up, get the ball out quickly and run the floor.”

While Westhead stressed the importance of new players needing to earn their starting minutes in his system, the head coach envisions his new post-player making an immediate impact for the Mercury.

“She’s clearly a starter in this league,” he said. “She has established that, and I anticipate she’ll be a significant, big-minutes player for us. Using the momentum from our seven-straight wins last year and with the acquisition of Tangela Smith, I couldn’t be happier.”

The move was not taken lightly. Meyers Drysdale assured fans that the Mercury's brain trust had carefully considered all options available to them. This one, he said, just made the most sense.

“When have you seen a No. 1 pick traded?" she asked reporters. "That was difficult for me. It showed how diverse this draft was. There was no clear cut No. 1. We missed the playoffs last year, but with Tangela and also (recently acquired center) Kelly Schumacher coming onboard, those are players Paul feels will get us over the top.”

Mercury Round Out Draft With Four Picks

With their second-round pick, the Mercury selected Delaware forward Tyresa Smith, a two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year.

“Tyresa’s stock really went up at the combine,” Meyers Drysdale said. “A lot of GMs and coaches enjoyed watching her. She elevated her game. At 5-11, she’s got a chance to make this team. She’s a wing player who runs the floor, who can score, and she fits in. Playing alongside our current players like Diana, Cappie, Penny and Kelly will only make her better down the stretch.”

The Mercury also selected forwards Leah Rush from Oklahoma and Arizona State’s Emily Westerberg, as well as Middle Tennessee guard Chrissy Givens, later in the draft.