The Phoenix Mercury have finally managed to keep someone from their championship core.
After speculation that point guard Temeka Johnson would sign with the New York Liberty, the Mercury announced today that they have re-signed their restricted free agent as well as the long-anticipated signing of Penny Taylor.
"It should be no surprise how crucial we think these two players are to our organization," said General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale. "Penny Taylor is regarded as one of the top players in the world and has been invaluable in this club's championship success. In just one season last year, Temeka has shown her true potential to be a championship-caliber floor general, and is also a key component to our success. With Penny and Meek in Mercury uniforms, I couldn't be more confident in our chances to defend our title."
Given the remaining point guard options available to the Mercury, Johnson leaving could have done serious damage to the team's hopes of even repeating a deep playoff run, much less a championship run. In addition to her ability to push the tempo as well as any point guard in the league, Johnson's 41.4% three point shooting definitely helped spread the court and give the Mercury one more weapon, especially after trading for a true interior presence in Candice Dupree.
Although re-signing Taylor has been an unofficial reality for months, she might be the bigger signing. Taylor only played in 14 games last year and during that time was one of the most effective "perimeter scorers" in the league, in terms of tendencies. So despite losing Cappie Pondexter, the Mercury gain a half season more of Taylor and a post game in Candice Dupree who they received in the Pondexter trade. Among the most interesting assets that Taylor brings to the table is the highest free throw rate -- nearly 40% -- of any perimeter oriented player in the league.
The bottom line for the Mercury is this: although they have lost a significant piece in Pondexter, with Dupree and a full season of Taylor, they might actually be a more effective team in terms of getting high percentage scoring opportunities in the half court this season.
For the Liberty, this leaves their point guard situation in limbo. Certainly they can run former Mercury All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter at point -- Pondexter was statistically among the best ball handlers in the league last season -- although there is still some uncertainty as to whether she can run a team for a full season. Although they currently have 6 perimeter players on their roster -- not including draftee Ashley Houts -- it will be interesting to see if they decide to pursue another point guard option.
For the official text of the release, please click here.