One personnel suggestion to help the Mercury's offense


After suffering their second blowout loss this season, the Mercury seem to be out of answers. The biggest surprise is that they're struggling offensively (by their standards), failing to reach 80 points in two of their three losses. Star wing Penny Taylor is still recovering from ACL surgery, and her return date is unknown. Her presence will certainly help the Mercury provided she is able to return before they dig themselves too big a hole in the standings (they're only a half a game up on the hapless Tulsa Shock, who have had a rash of injuries to start the season). At the very least, a return of Penny Taylor will give Phoenix a stronger option on the wing. So far, fifth-year wing DeWanna Bonner has had a slow start to her 2013 season (14 points per on 33% shooting and 29% from 3). More Penny means less DeWanna. Right now, that would be a welcomed move.

But this team can't afford to pin all its hopes on Penny's return. There are issues all around with this team, especially at point guard. Second-year pro Sammy Prahalis does not look like the same player she was last year, and it has been speculated why that's the case. There aren't many answers out there for Phoenix, but there is one possible move that could make sense for Phoenix and a trading partner from their past, the New York Liberty. No, I'm not suggesting an "end-of-bench Mercury player for Cappie Pondexter" move, though Phoenix would take that in a heartbeat if they could get away with it. I'm suggesting a far lesser trade that could help both teams.

The trade: a simple player-for-player swap involving Liberty PG Leilani Mitchell and Mercury PG/SG Alexis Hornbuckle. I don't have any info regarding their contracts, but I'd imagine that the money wouldn't be too far off. They're both 5th-year players.

Why does this help Phoenix?

It gives the Mercury a veteran true PG (Buck is at best a combo guard and is prone to mistakes at critical times in games) who can stretch the defense. She only shot 33% from 3 this past winter in Euroleague play, but that's still better than the 27% from three that Prahalis shot last season from a shorter 3-point distance (for comparison's sake, Hornbuckle shot 32.5% from three last year while Mitchell shot 41.1% from that shorter distance). She's played in the playoffs four seasons in her career (all with NY) and has a career 2.44 assist-to-turnover ratio. Her presence on the floor would free up Taurasi (and Taylor, when she returns) to attack. Mitchell has her flaws (small stature and slow feet, which makes it easy to shoot over her and maneuver around her), but she's got experience playing alongside ball-dominant players and understands her role. She's capable of holding down the fort until Prahalis is ready for an expanded role.

Why does this help New York?

Head coach Bill Laimbeer favors bigger, physical guards. He loves Katie Smith (who doesn't, unless you're an opponent?), but Katie's 39 and has said this is her final year. He drafted Kamiko Williams early in the 2nd round out of Tennessee, and her versatility helped her earn a roster spot. But Kamiko has struggled so far this season as a starter, leaving Laimbeer with few options at lead guard. One option he does not seem particularly fond of is the 5'5 Mitchell. Though she's the only true PG on the Liberty roster, she's also seen as the "last resort". Even if she's playing well, she receives limited minutes (see the Fever/Liberty game 6/5).

If the swap is made, Hornbuckle gives Laimbeer another 5'10-5'11 physical guard option to use as he pleases--as a starter or as a bench player. He's already won a title with Hornbuckle and has yet to make a move to acquire her, so it's possible that he's not enamored with her (which would partially explain why a trade of this nature hasn't happened). It's also possible that Phoenix didn't see itself getting off to such a slow start, thereby turning down any potential offers from Laimbeer or others. And let's not forget that Phoenix drafted Mitchell in 2008 and traded her to NY as opposed to cutting her, so maybe they're not feeling the Liberty vet themselves. But now the Mercury are at 0-3 and something needs to be done to jump start the offense before it's too late. We all know the defense is what it is, so there's no use making suggestions on that end.

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