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2018 Season Preview: Five Reasons To Watch The Phoenix Mercury Work

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2017 Record: 18-16, No. 5 seed in Playoffs, Lost to Sparks in Semifinals

Key Offseason Moves

  • Acquired Briann January (from Indiana) for draft pick
  • Traded Danielle Robinson (to Minnesota), Kelsey Bone (to Las Vegas) and Cayla George (to Connecticut) for draft picks
  • Re-signed DeWanna Bonner, Camille Little, Yvonne Turner and Emma Cannon
  • Signed free agent Sancho Lyttle
  • Added Marie Gülich, Raisa Musina and Imani Wright in the WNBA Draft 2018

2017 Season Highlights

All-Access: Mercury Punch Their Ticket To Semifinals

1. The Championship Window Is Still Open

In each of the past two seasons, the Phoenix Mercury have experienced up-and-down regular seasons followed by early playoff success, before suffering a sweep on the doorstep of the WNBA Finals. In 2016, Phoenix fell short of preseason expectations and snuck into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed. However, they advanced two rounds to the Semifinals, where they were knocked off by Minnesota. In 2017, the Mercury finished fifth in the playoff hunt, but once again won two rounds to get back to the Semifinals, and once again were swept, this time by the L.A. Sparks.

All-WNBA stars Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner were the two constants between those teams as the roster made major changes from 2016 to 2017. There have been more changes heading into 2018, with an influx of talent to surround Taurasi and Griner and — if all goes according to plan — push this team back into the championship picture while their window is still open. Phoenix has three WNBA titles (2007, 2009, 2014) already. Can 2018 be the year they get No. 4?

2. Another Season To Appreciate Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is back in Phoenix and ready to begin her 14th season in the WNBA. Taurasi ended her overseas season in December in order to recover from injuries as well as welcome her first child, who was born in March. She has had months off the court to get healthy and rested (as much as she can be with a newborn) in preparation for the season. Taurasi is coming off a 2017 season that saw her make her eighth WNBA All-Star team, 12th All-WNBA team and become both the league’s all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in 3-pointers.

Taurasi is considered by many to be the GOAT — the greatest women’s basketball player of all time — and fans in every WNBA city should relish the opportunity to see her play. She is a month away from her 36th birthday and it’s uncertain how long she will continue her career. Taurasi has more than a handful championships around the globe, including three in the WNBA. Can she lead this team to a fourth?

3. Brittney Griner’s Follow-Up To Career Year

Brittney Griner is coming off the best season of her WNBA career. She was a dominant force on both ends of the court, winning her first scoring title (21.9 points per game) and leading the league in blocks for the fifth consecutive year (2.5 blocks per game). Griner has been a defensive force since the day she stepped on a WNBA court in 2013 and has two Defensive Player of the Year awards on her resume.

But in 2017, her offensive game caught up to her dominant defense. Griner increased her scoring by 7.4 points per game as she commanded more shots (13.8 per game) and scored efficiently (57.7 percent from the field). During the WNBA offseason, she’s won EuroLeague and Russian League championships, continuing to grow her game. What will season six have in store for Griner?

4. Return of a Familiar Face

The Mercury welcome back DeWanna Bonner, who missed the 2017 season after giving birth to twins. The versatile wing gives the Mercury a little bit of everything — scoring (13.7 points per game career average), rebounding (5.9 per game) and defense (1.2 steals per game) — thanks to her long 6-foot-4 frame and incredible speed and quickness.

She is a player that can score more when needed — she was runner-up to the 2012 scoring title as she averaged 20.6 points per game while Taurasi was limited to eight games — but is content to sacrifice and do what’s needed for the team to find success. The Mercury have won two titles with Bonner and her return to the court gives them a much better chance of returning to championship form.

5. Exciting New Arrivals

The Mercury had a busy offseason, executing a number of trades and signings to bolster their roster for the upcoming season. In early March, the Mercury made a trade with Indiana to acquire point guard Briann January. January, a 2012 WNBA champion, a 2014 WNBA All-Star and a six-time WNBA All-Defensive Team selection, has roots in Arizona as a former star player and current assistant coach at Arizona State University. January’s ability to defend the league’s best perimeter players while also running an offense as a floor general make her a great addition to the team.

On the opening day of free agency, the Mercury signed their top target (outside of keeping their own players) in former Atlanta Dream forward Sancho Lyttle. Like January, Little is a six-time WNBA All-Defensive Team selection as the 6-foot-4 athletic power forward will make for a formidable defensive frontline alongside Griner.

The Mercury have five rookies in training camp competing for limited roster spots. Among that group are Marie Gülich, Raisa Musina and Imani Wright, who the Mercury selected in WNBA Draft 2018. Gülich, a 6-foot-5 center, averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot 65.2 percent from the field as a senior at Oregon State and will serve as a backup to Griner. Musina, a forward from Russia, is currently playing for Ekaterinburg alongside Griner and being coached by Mercury coach Sandy Brondello’s husband. She already has ties with the Mercury and plenty of international experience to draw on as she makes her transition to the WNBA.