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2011 WNBA Free Agency: Phoenix Mercury Sign Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Nakia Sanford

Signing Nakia Sanford (left) brings the Phoenix Mercury a rugged defensive presence and among the league's top rebounders. <em>Photo by <a href="" target="new">Craig Bennett/112575 Media</a>.</em>
Signing Nakia Sanford (left) brings the Phoenix Mercury a rugged defensive presence and among the league's top rebounders. Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

The Phoenix Mercury's signing of Marie Ferdinand-Harris today seems to be a fit with what we might be used to from the 2010 Western Conference finalist - the 5'9" veteran guard had among the league's highest scoring tendencies last summer.

But if you believe the signing of Nakia Sanford seems to signify a shift, you're not alone.

Sanford is the type of rugged interior player that Phoenix typically hasn't had - averaging 6 points per game last season, she's not the type of player who's going to look to take a whole shots. Instead, Sanford is an outstanding offensive rebounder and defender inside. Similar to Kara Braxton, who Phoenix acquired last season in a trade, Sanford was one of the top 15 offensive rebounders in the league last season (18.34). Considering that Phoenix ended the season tied with San Antonio as the second worst offensive rebounding team by percentage (25%) and third worse in second chance points, Sanford's offensive rebounding presence along with Braxton and the continued development of DeWanna Bonner should make Phoenix a much stronger team on the offensive boards.

More importantly though might be her presence on the defensive boards - Phoenix was last in opponents' second chance points last year, giving up 14.29 per game. Again, with the combination of rebounders they now have, one might figure that would change. And with a rebounding improvement on both ends of the floor, it's also likely that Phoenix will strengthen a relative statistical weakness from last year: offensive rebounding percentage differential.

Most importantly: Sanford is a seven-year vet that showed last season that she can still give about 18 quality minutes a game. In this rotation, she'd likely play less and be quite productive off the bench.

Adding Sanford doesn't necessarily mean the Mercury need to slow down either - what people often forget is that you actually have to rebound to run. The Mercury now have a well-rounded rotation of post players that can both fill the lanes to score in transition (Bonner, Candace Durpee) and rebound to trigger transition (Braxton, Sanford).