There’s no way to talk about the Phoenix Mercury without talking about Brittney Griner. She’s been at the heart of the organization, and is a huge reason why Phoenix has made every single playoffs since she was drafted, winning the championship in 2014. But Griner is currently sitting in jail in Russia, and we know so little about her situation. We don’t know when she will be back. We don’t know if she will still want to play basketball. Griner’s absence will be felt not just on the court, but as one of the integral 144 players of the WNBA. The only concern is for her safety and freedom. Basketball is secondary.
Of course, now we need to talk about basketball. Phoenix made so many moves in the offseason that they won’t have a ton to do on draft night. Diana Taurasi will turn 40 this summer. Though she seems ageless, the Mercury are in a win now mode. The team has traded away a ton of draft picks to that end.
The Mercury won’t pick until the third round, picking 26th and 32nd overall.
What did they do last season?
Taurasi played in just 16 games last season thanks to issues with her back. Without her, Phoenix finished in fifth place with a record of 19-13. This meant they had a tough road in the playoffs. They first had to knock off the Seattle Storm, the defending champs, and then beat the Las Vegas Aces in a semifinal round that went the full five games. Chicago beat the Mercury 3-1 to win the title.
What about in the offseason?
Phoenix’s offseason was very eventful. First, they parted ways with longtime coach Sandy Brondello, who was then hired by New York. Vanessa Nygaard, who was most recently with the Aces, was hired to head the team. Kia Vaughn and Bria Hartley were traded away, and the Mercury traded for former All-Star Diamond DeShields from Chicago. DeShields had moved to the bench during Chicago’s title run as Kahleah Copper’s role grew with the team in their title run, but she has the skills to be a star for Phoenix. Then Phoenix signed Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP and an eight-time All-WNBA pick.
So, what do they need in this year’s draft?
The Mercury decided to put everything into attracting more seasoned players to Phoenix to win another title now. This means they have just two draft picks; both are in the final round. Usually by the third round, teams are looking for camp bodies who may show enough promise to make the team, so perhaps Hannah Sjevren, a center who turned heads as her team pulled an upset in the tournament, could be a good fit.