Phoenix deals Harding for veteran forward Smith

Mercury Trade No. 1 Pick

By Mark Haller,
April 5, 2007

Intentions were clear: The Mercury needed to get bigger. So when they took Duke point guard Lindsey Harding with the No. 1 overall pick, something more was brewing. Fifteen minutes later Harding was gone, traded to Minnesota for five-time All-Star forward Tangela Smith.

Phoenix went big again in the second round with Tyresa Smith, who averaged 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds for the University of Delaware. It added forward Leah Rush (Oklahoma) and guard Chrissy Givens (Middle Tennessee State) in the third round.

Then the Mercury stayed local with their last pick, taking Arizona State forward Emily Westerberg. She led the Sun Devils in scoring (13.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.0) as they reached the Elite Eight.

The three-time All-Pac-10 forward was the first Sun Devil drafted in the WNBA since Melody Johnson in 2002.

Westerberg’s close friend and teammate Aubree Johnson was invited to Mercury training camp as a rookie free agent. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.

The 6-4 Tangela Smith turned 30 years old Sunday. She spent her first eight seasons with Sacramento then went to Charlotte for two years before Minnesota picked her up when the Sting folded this offseason.

She averaged 13 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, on par with her career numbers. She’s also played in 20 playoff games with Sacramento.

The Mercury envision Tangela Smith, Jen Lacy and recently acquired Kelly Schumacher seeing the bulk of minutes in the frontcourt.

Phoenix went the trade route after expressing unhappiness over no clear-cut No. 1 pick. Candace Parker could have filled that void, but the two-time All American redshirt sophomore stayed at Tennessee.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said with a laugh.

Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport and Duke’s Alison Bales were viewed as the top two post players in the draft, but both Meyers Drysdale and Mercury coach Paul Westhead questioned whether they could thrive in their system.

Trade discussions went on the past several weeks, with a half-dozen teams making serious inquiries to Phoenix and vice versa. The Mercury targeted several teams’ players — including Tangela Smith — throughout the winter, but the Lynx originally rejected the Mercury’s interest.

That changed, according to Westhead, as soon as it was announced the Mercury were on the clock.

“She’s probably the best player available to help us,” Westhead said. “She’s a clear starter … and has five good years ahead.”

Tangela Smith is currently playing in Turkey against now-teammate Cappie Pondexter, but with her and Schumacher coming to Phoenix, an empty frontcourt is now full.

“There was no clear-cut solution,” Meyers Drysdale said. “We feel these are the kind of players who can get us over the top.”

Mercury’s draft

A quick glance at Phoenix’s draft-day moves:

  • No. 1 pick: Took Duke guard Lindsey Harding and then traded her rights to Minnesota for Tangela Smith. With Candace Parker staying in school, the Mercury decided an athletic veteran forward was needed more than a bigger-sized draft pick. Phoenix likes Smith’s length, ability to score and defend. She’s averaging 18 points and nine rebounds playing in Turkey.

  • No. 18 pick: Tyresa Smith, F, Delaware: A two-time Colonial Athletic Conference player of the year as a 6-foot forward, Smith’s stock rose during last week’s combine in Cleveland. Known for her versatility and defense in college, Smith had more steals than turnovers in each of her four years at school. “She has a chance to make this team,” Mercury GM Ann Meyers Drysdale said.

  • No. 28 pick: Leah Rush, F, Oklahoma: Averaged nine points and four rebounds as a senior, down from 15.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore, but she also missed five games and took 150 fewer shots this season. She made 43 percent of her 3-pointers and was a two-time All-Big 12 selection.

  • No. 31 pick: Chrissy Givens, G, Middle Tennessee State: The twotime Sun Belt Conference player of the year and preseason All-American candidate averaged 23 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. At 5-11 she has the height to match up with WNBA guards, but it’s an uphill battle for Rush, Givens and Emily Westerberg because of the Mercury’s already-loaded backcourt.

  • No. 37 pick: Emily Westerberg, F, ASU: A two-time All-Pac-10 forward, Westerberg led the Sun Devils in scoring and rebounding en route to the Elite Eight. She’s the first Sun Devil to be drafted by the WNBA since Melody Johnson in 2002.

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