Phoenix Mercury HC/GM Corey Gaines is still going to have to work hard this offseason, even with the #1 pick for the 2013 Draft. - Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
The Phoenix Mercury had a rough season in 2012, going 7-27 and ended up being the worst team in the Western Conference. Most of it was due to injuries to the team's best players, starting with Penny Taylor who suffered a knee injury during the previous offseason. In addition, Candice Dupree and their best player, Diana Taurasi also missed over half the season's games. The Mercury was the big winner of the 2013 WNBA Draft Lottery, ending up with the number one overall pick. With everyone hopefully healthy along with the number one pick for this year's draft, can the Mercury make a 180 for 2013 and be the best team in the West?
Before we go further, I'll hit the issue on Diana Taurasi allegedly sitting out games so the Mercury could tank for the number one pick. Considering the injury woes all around last season, I don't think that the Mercury would have been all that competitive. Perhaps they may have won a few more games if Taurasi did play as many games as possible, but considering the total depth of the top western teams like Minnesota, LA, and San Antonio and the aforementioned injuries that Phoenix had, I don't think they would have done that much better in the standings.
That said, here are some things that I at least think the Mercury should consider:
1. Re-sign DeWanna Bonner
Bonner is a restricted free agent, and can sign an offer sheet with anyone, and it is possible that she may be looking to be a starter on another team. However, for Phoenix, she provides a valuable scoring punch off the bench and can play multiple positions, and if this team is as good as some may think, I don't think Bonner will complain about being a sixth woman, if she ever did that is.
2. Do not blindly assume that Brittney Griner will be the starting center for the Mercury.
While I believe that the Mercury will ultimately keep the first overall pick of the 2013 Draft and pick up Griner, at the same time, the Mercury should not overvalue or undervalue anything on their team. That means that as a GM, Corey Gaines should not blindly hang up when some other team is calling about getting Griner.
Essentially, what I am saying is that Gaines must do his due diligence by seeing whatever assets he could get for the number one pick in exploratory talks. After this, then decide what is best for the team.
In addition, there were many people last season who believed that among the Big Three picks, Elena Delle Donne was the best fit for the Mercury. If Gaines comes to that determination that she in fact is the best fit and needs to be in a Phoenix uniform, he may want to consider trading down to the #2 or #3 picks and in return perhaps grab an additional player or draft picks to improve the Mercury.
3. Consider adding another distributor at guard
By default, the team will get back Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi who all can put the ball in their teammates' hands in an optimal position to score. However as is often the case, the team's best players are also its best scorers, and both Taylor and Taurasi are great scorers.
Of all the Mercury's players last year, Samantha Prahalis was the only player who had an assist to turnover ratio close to 1.5 (4.5 assists to 3.04 turnovers). Her turnovers obviously need to go down for 2013, but the Mercury could use an additional distributor to take pressure off of Prahalis. If unrestricted free agent Temeka Johnson doesn't come back to Tulsa, she may come back to Phoenix, which is where she played before getting traded to the Shock.
The 2013 Phoenix Mercury season looks to be an exciting one for its fans as it appears that they will have a potentially generational rookie to play alongside an already deep roster that returns from injury last year. While many may pencil in this team as the 2013 WNBA champions, the Mercury still has to play those games on the court, and whatever Coach Gaines decides to do, he must make sure that his star players who come back from injury can create good chemistry with the teams' younger rotation players, which include Prahalis and their anticipated rookie star.