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Season In Review: Phoenix Mercury

As the end of 2020 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this historic season by reviewing each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2020 Season In Review. Next up: Phoenix Mercury.

Overview:

Phoenix’s season began with a blockbuster trade that would send three first-round picks to Dallas in exchange for Skylar Diggins-Smith. In Phoenix, Diggins-Smith would team up with the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi. The duo would prove to be just as dangerous as they sound.

Add in veteran guard Bria Hartley and the trio was almost unstoppable. The depth of Phoenix’s backcourt was impressive. If Taurasi wasn’t performing, Diggins-Smith or Hartley stepped up – and vice versa. Because all three guards were true threats, it made defending even more difficult for opposing teams.

The Mercury finished with a 13-9 record and qualified for the Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. They also ranked 1st in BPG (5.6), 2nd in 3PM (8.4) and 4th in both PPG (86.1) and APG (20.4). With the majority of the 2020 team expected to return in 2021, the Mercury have a strong chance at making a run for their fourth title.

Top Contributors:

Diana Taurasi:

After sitting out a majority of the 2019 season due to injury, Diana Taurasi was back with a vengeance in 2020. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer ranked in the top 10 in points (5th), assists (8th) and 3-pointers made (1st). Taurasi averaged 18.7 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.2 3PM – but what might be most impressive is Taurasi’s 28.1 MPG in her 16th year. Taurasi credits her ability to play at a high level to her fitness and nutrition routine.

“As I know very well, physically you have to be ready to be on the court, and that just doesn’t happen overnight,” Taurasi said. “That’s cumulative from nutrition, hydration and fitness. Those are a lot of the things I’ve been learning, since I haven’t been going overseas and getting those actual game reps.”

For the fourth time in her career, Taurasi earned All-WNBA Second Team honors. The point guard recorded eight 20+ point games including a season-high 34 points on August 23, Kobe Bryant’s birthday, in which she wore a No. 8 jersey in his honor.

At 38 years old, Taurasi shows no signs of slowing down.

Skylar Diggins Smith:

For someone who sat out the entire 2019 season on maternity leave, Diggins-Smith didn’t miss a beat. In her first season with the Mercury, Diggins-Smith averaged 17.7 PPG on 47.4% shooting and 4.2 APG. The tenacious guard scored in double-digits in all but two games.

Diggins-Smith also delivered in the clutch. The most exciting moment of Diggins-Smith’s season might have been when she knocked down a 45-foot buzzer-beater to send the game to OT against Connecticut.

Off the court, Diggins-Smith joined LeBron James and other Black athletes and celebrities to help create conversation and action around the ‘More Than A Vote’ campaign. The campaign aimed to inspire Black Americans to register to vote in the November election, while at the same time combat systemic racism and voter suppression.

Bria Hartley:

Though Hartley was limited to 13 games due to a mid-season ACL tear, the guard made an impact early and often in her first season with the Mercury. Hartley proved to be a playmaker, leading the Mercury with 4.5 APG. The guard also tacked on 14.6 PPG and 1.2 SPG. Hartley made history on August 15th when she recorded 24 PTS, including 4 3PM, alongside 4 REB and 5 AST.

The Mercury’s sixth woman not only provided rest for Taurasi and Diggins-Smith but when sharing the court with the dynamic guards, proved to mesh well together. The trio were the top three passers on the team and accounted for three of the Mercury’s top four scorers.

Season Highlights:

Playoff Peddy:

An unlikely hero, Shey Peddy saved the day for the Mercury in Round 1 of the WNBA Playoffs. With 5.8 seconds left in the game, Phoenix trailed Washington, 84-82. Taurasi inbounded the ball to Diggins-Smith, who drove and then kicked it out to Peddy in the corner. Peddy pump-faked to get her defender off balance and in the air, and then knocked down the three at the buzzer.

Bri Turner Leads League In Blocks:

The second-year forward finished the season with a league-leading 2.0 BPG (tied with MVP A’ja Wilson). On six different occasions, Turner recorded at least 4 blocks, including one game with 6. Turner’s impressive performance landed her on the All-Defensive First Team.

Taurasi Honors Kobe:

On August 23, Kobe Bryant’s Birthday, Taurasi honored her late friend by wearing a No. 8 “Bryant” emblazoned jersey. In true Mamba fashion, Taurasi stuffed the stat sheet with a season-high 34 points on 53.3% shooting. She added in 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.

After the game, Taurasi revealed that she was hesitant about wearing the jersey. However, after putting it on she knew it was the best way to honor the legend.