The Mercury had an up-and-down season that year, struggling to an 11-16 record by the start of August before the Merc picked up the pace and finished the season on a 7-game winning streak, including a triple overtime win over the Comets where Diana Taurasi scored a league record 47 points, to push towards the playoffs. The team would finished 18-16, tied for third place in the WNBA's Western Conference with the Seattle Storm and Houston Comets. Courtesy of tiebreakers, the Mercury missed out on the playoffs, but a precedent had been set. This team felt that they had no one to blame but themselves, and made a vow to come back even harder in 2007. And boy, did it come together well.
Now, in the WNBA, for those who may not follow as heavily, the draft lottery is similar to the NBA's. The major difference is that no matter what the record, if your team doesn't qualify for the playoffs, you're automatically entered into the draft lottery for the #1 pick. Although they had the best record of non-playoff teams, meaning they had the lowest chance of winning the top pick, the Mercury were chosen to select number one overall. The 2007 draft was considered to be fairly weak and the Mercury front office didn't feel that there was a player available that would put them over the top. Someone, somewhere had to have something more appealing. Draft day 2007 rolls around, the Phoenix Mercury draft point guard Lindsey Harding of Duke University and subsequently traded her to Minnesota for veteran forward/center Tangela Smith. A move that to this day, turned the Mercury franchise in the right direction.
In the prior season, Smith, in 34 starts for the Charlotte Sting (who folded in 2006, allowing the Lynx to acquire her rights in the dispersal draft) averaged 28.6 minutes where she scored 13.1 and 5.3 rebounds a night while shooting 42% from the floor, including 37% from three. Tan, as she came to be known by Mercury fans, went on to start every game she played in a Phoenix uniform. Playing in a stretch post role, Smith finished 4th in scoring during the 2007 championship run as the Mercury defeated the Detroit Shock for the WNBA World Championship. Phoenix followed the championship with a down year, becoming the first champion in WNBA history to not make the playoffs the following year. Part of that falls on all star Penny Taylor (remember that aforementioned third future all star? yeah that's her) missing the season due to commitments to her Australian national team. Nevertheless, the Mercury returned to the WNBA's peak position in 2009. Smith set a WNBA record for three point shooting on the season, shooting a whopping 45% from three while also committing a career-low 1.09 turnovers, further helping her team in 27 minutes a night.
Smith went on to set the WNBA standard for games played in a career, currently sitting at 451, and after a season playing for the Fever in Indiana, Smith currently returned from the Olympic break healthy after sitting out the first half with a knee injury for the San Antonio Silver Stars. Although she has moved on, Smith has left her stamp on the Mercury organization, with her trademark knee-high socks and deadly three point stroke. This, by far, is the best trade in the history of Phoenix Mercury basketball, and this guy hopes that the standards it set for championship pursuit will continue going forward.