As we continue on this trek through SB Nation's themes, we embark upon a topic that most of, it not all; true fans can understand and relate to: Biggest Disappointment. When I hear disappointment in regards to teams, I immediately think back - unlike most of my generation who have little to no knowledge of the history of their preferred sports - to the year 1984. In this year's draft the top three overall picks went to the Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, and the Chicago Bulls.
With the first pick in the NBA Draft the Rockets made what was the obvious choice at that time - though hindsight is 20/20 - in Akeem (later to become Hakeem) Olajuwon, a junior center from the University of Houston. The Trailblazers then decided to select Sam Bowie, a 7-foot-1 center from the University of Kentucky, passing on the Wooden and Naismith College Player of the Year, one Michael Jeffery Jordan. I was born during the peak years of Jordan's career and being born into an athletic family. (I was named after a certain New York Knicks Hall of Famer) I instantly took to the sport and later learned of this all-time conundrum.
Now, when asked to delineate the biggest disappointment in Phoenix Mercury history, nothing really stood out to me like that 1984 NBA Draft. So I decided to look back on the drafts because I have always said that there have been players that the Mercury have drafted or had rights to and given up on, that have gone on to improve and become relevant players elsewhere.
Names that come immediately to mind are Plenette Pierson, Jessica Adair, and Leilani Mitchell. This has pained me, especially considering that lately we've made some choices and took chances on players that won't have a chance at making this team because their style seems similar to the Mercury style when there was an opportunity to take a player that was of much better talent.
A perfect example of this is this year's draft: selecting at number 30 in the third round, with Jacki Gemelos sitting idly by, the Mercury chose to take a chance on Christine Flores just to have a player in training camp to "push the players there." Now keep in mind, Gemelos, from Southern California, has always been a Diana Taurasi fan and was not shy about admitting that she would love to play for the Phoenix Mercury. I know some of you are thinking, "she's injured, what help can she possibly be?" Think back to 2010. The Connecticut Sun drafted an injured Danielle McCray, just to have her rights. In 2011, she came back to have a great year for them, even becoming a starter for them until earlier this year. This thought process was one that I, as a basketball mind, could appreciate.
Gemelos now happens to be a member of the Minnesota Lynx franchise, and they're marketing her like crazy and gaining from her appeal. The worst part of this is that I think the reason Flores was chosen was because of her ties to the University of Missouri, whom Amber Cox, Mercury COO is a huge fan of. But, I digress.
The biggest disappointment for me has to be the 2005 draft. With the number three pick in the draft, the Mercury decided to go with Sandora Irvin, the forward out of TCU. Now, don't get me wrong, Irvin's prowess as a shot-blocker was intriguing, but Irvin brought little else to the table.
She did average 20 points and 11 rebounds as a senior, but against better competition she struggled. Against Tennessee, she shot 5-14 from the floor and in a late season game against Depaul, shot 8-22. The crazy thing for me was that the players still available in that draft were the likes of:
- Kara Braxton, a 6'6 center out of the University of Georgia
- Sancho Lyttle, a 6'4 Center from the University of Houston
- Tanisha Wright, 5'11 guard from Penn State
- Temeka Johnson, 5-3 point guard from LSU, who went on to win Rookie of the Year honors
Irvin went on two play in 19 games in two years for the Mercury and was most recently back in the league playing for the Atlanta Dream, but the aforementioned players, along with a few others, are still in the league and all playing quite well for their current squads.
For me personally, there have been a few disappointments but I feel this has been the biggest one so far. One can only hope that it will forever be the biggest disappointment in Phoenix Mercury history.