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WNBA Draft Preview: The Phoenix Mercury need to add youth where they can around Brittney Griner

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Phoenix has a veteran-laden team, but will there be a young player who regularly fits into their rotation this season?

Los Angeles Sparks v Phoenix Mercury - Game Three Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Mercury are still one of the WNBA’s better teams, but they also took a step back after winning the 2014 Finals. Many key players on the 2014 team are no longer there: Australian nationals Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips retired. Candice Dupree now plays for the Fever. Finally, DeWanna Bonner missed all of last season due to pregnancy.

In the last two seasons, the Mercury have been mediocre. They went 16-18 in the 2016 season and went 18-16 just last year while missing Bonner. Brittney Griner had her best season as a pro and is the undisputed franchise player for the long term. Meanwhile, Diana Taurasi continues to be one of the league’s best scorers, even if she’s now past her prime.

Though Phoenix hasn’t been a strong regular season team as of late, they are still making their mark in the postseason. The Mercury made the WNBA semifinals in 2016 and 2017, both times without any byes. Though Phoenix was swept in the semifinals last year (and the year before), there’s still reason to believe that the Mercury may still have one last run in their current core group.

This past season, the Mercury added more veteran help but they still have several draft picks to work with. Can that help make a difference in the regular season and the playoffs?

Team Stats

Offensive Rating: 102.9 (7th)

Defensive Rating: 102.9 (6th)

Pace: 94.4 (5th)

The good - Phoenix held teams to a league best 31.4 percent shooting from the three point line. Diana Taurasi averaged over three made three pointers a game as well. That’s her best average since 2006 when the WNBA three point line was much closer.

The bad - The Mercury didn’t seem to stand out statistically in a bad manner except roster age. The current team has seven players who are 30 years old or older. If the Mercury were a juggernaut team, that’s understandable. But this team has only been average in the last two seasons. Phoenix was also outrebounded, and Griner isn’t enough to close that gap.

Finally, Diana Taurasi is starting to fall out of form. She made only 40 percent of her shots overall in 2017, and a little less than that last season. Most of her attempts are threes, but she was shooting about 45 percent overall before then. Taurasi also retired UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian PBL last fall after several poor performances. Maybe she needs to recharge her batteries, but it’s clear that Taurasi’s prime is now behind her.

What have the Mercury done in the offseason?

Key Departures: Danielle Robinson was traded to the Minnesota Lynx for their first round pick. Monique Currie signed with the Washington Mystics.

Key Additions: Sancho Lyttle signed as a free agent. Briann January was acquired in the Robinson deal.

Re-signings: Phoenix re-signed Camille Little, Emma Cannon, and Yvonne Turner this past winter.

The Mercury’s draft picks

The Mercury have the 12th overall pick (from the Lynx), the 20th and 21st picks in the second round, and the 26th pick in the third round.

What does Phoenix need?

The Mercury can use some more younger talent.

In a deep draft like this year’s, the Mercury can certainly take advantage of picking a player who would otherwise be a mid first round pick in most other years. It won’t be easy because they added veterans, but perhaps the first round pick and a second could make the roster this year and show promise with the playing opportunities they get this season. And from there, maybe they could play a bigger part of the Mercury’s future.