It appears Mercury is NOT in retrograde. At least, the Phoenix Mercury are not.
from norf philly to phoenix. pic.twitter.com/6kjAmTsTKv— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) February 6, 2024
It was Copper and the Chicago Sky who foiled Phoenix’s last, best chance at a championship. Now, with Copper joining fellow Philly native Natasha Cloud in Phoenix, the Mercury, under the new leadership regime of owner Mat Ishbia, general manager Nick U’Ren and head coach Nate Tibbetts, are charging toward a fourth title.
In September, Copper signed a two-year supermax contract extension with the Sky, seemingly cementing her as the face of the franchise as a new era was set to begin under head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. Approximately five months later, she’s leaving the Windy City for the Valley of Sun. To acquire the three-time All-Star, Phoenix is sending a haul back to Chicago. In addition to Brianna Turner and Michaela Onyenwere, the Sky will receive the No. 3 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, the Mercury’s 2026 first-round pick, the Mercury’s 2025 second-round pick and the right to swap second-round picks in 2026. Morgan Bertsch also is heading to Phoenix with Copper.
What Kahleah Copper brings to the Mercury
Copper might have said it best in her IG post: “To my new teammates and coaches: you’re getting all of me. My hunger, my desire, my competitive spirit. Every. Damn. Possession.”
Phoenix, particularly Sophie Cunningham, has seen Copper’s relentlessness up close, in the 2021 WNBA Finals and in competitive Sky-Mercury battles since then. However, her hunger, desire and competitive spirit translate to winning because of her combination of speed and skill.
Quite possibly the fastest player in the W, Copper applies her elite wheels and skills on both ends of the floor. Defensively, her quickness, combined with her length, will bother opposing ball handlers. Now, with Brittney Griner (presumably) backing her up, Copper can ramp up the aggression, taking more calculated gambles for steals knowing that BG is protecting the rim. When she forces a turnover, it’s off to the races as a one-woman transition torpedo. (It seems safe to assume that Diana Taurasi will not complain when a Copper fastbreak saves her a trip up and down the court.)
momentum is all the way pic.twitter.com/DmpVeO0MOR— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) February 6, 2024
On offense, Copper can blow by defenders off the dribble, catch and go in a blur and take advantage of cracks in the opponent’s defense with quick off ball cuts. The spacing provided by Taurasi, Cunningham and Rebecca Allen, along with the orchestration of Cloud, will make all these actions more effective. Last season, Chicago depended on Copper to carry their offense. In Phoenix, it will be a symbiotic relationship; she will help create a more favorable offensive environment that, in turn, will amplify her offensive contributions. That she’s also become a dead-eye 3-point shooter, converting more than 40 percent of her 4.5 3s per game last season, will make her even more dangerous in the offensive half court.
When evaluating Natasha Cloud’s addition to the Mercury, Edwin Garcia called Cloud “a dynamic guard.” Copper, however, brings another level of dynamism. Will it be enough to bring Phoenix a fourth championship?
What’s next for the Mercury?
It seems risky to assume things are totally settled in Phoenix, especially with Elena Delle Donne lingering without a new home.
But, the top remaining priority for Phoenix should be officially re-signing Brittney Griner. The Mercury have $407,626 in available salary cap space. That’s enough to give Griner a significant raise off the $165,100 she earned last season, while also signing at least two more players to meet the 11-player roster minimum. Not counting Griner, Phoenix currently has eight players under contract. The Mercury also still have two picks in the 2024 WNBA Draft, although finding a contributor for a championship-chasing team with picks No. 25 or No. 29 is unlikely.