clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Player-by-player breakdown of the Phoenix Mercury's opening weekend

Having already looked at the first two games of the Mercury's 2014 WNBA season, who were the most impressive individuals? A player-by-player breakdown follows.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Diana Taurasi: She seems to be carrying over her approach in Russia to the WNBA so far this season. In a game that was in hand early against Seattle, Taurasi had quite a few hockey assists and was content to move the ball in the season-opening win. In the dog-fight against LA, Taurasi refused to let her team dig too big a hole against a loaded LA squad and put her stamp all over the game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals but also had 5 turnovers.

I was impressed with her composure in particular spots of this game when she probably would've flown off the handle in years past. I knew it was coming with the final roster but I don't really like seeing 'Taurasi playing so much point guard but with the talent the Mercury added (talent can be expensive) she'll likely have to until Tiffany Bias proves prepared. Bonner and Taylor also did some initiating of the offense but when Phillips goes out it's mostly DT at the one.

DeWanna Bonner: DB has come into this season seemingly ready to prove that she's still a factor as she's been given some flack in the last few years for becoming an inefficient "jacker." So far this season, Bonner is taking advantage of being so open by shooting at a career clip from the field (47%) and from three (50%) Bonner is also back to her early roots of being a versatile defender. In the Seattle game, at one point or another, she guarded Shekinna Stricklen, Sue Bird and Crystal Langhorne. Bonner is swiping the ball 2 times a night and really wreaking havoc with her 6'4 frame again and it's good to see. If she can continue to take the open shots as they come, she could be the key to this team taking that next step into the WNBA finals.

Brittney Griner: I questioned Griner going to China strictly due to the fact that you rarely ever hear about players coming back from China having spent time in the weight room and adding muscle which I felt would be the biggest key to making the necessary jump this season. But on the other side, a lot of contact isn't called in China and Griner was tasked with scoring with multiple defenders hanging on her nightly.

Griner has been much more active this season both offensively and rotating to get blocks out of her area. I felt like she did a lot of ball-watching last season and that's not happening early on this season. There's a joy and a focus that is reminiscent of her senior season at Baylor.  She still leaves a lot, and I mean A LOT, to be desired from a rebounding standpoint considering she's 6'8 but Griner has held down the fort to the tune of 4.5 blocks per game and 67% shooting.

Candice Dupree: Another year, another adjustment for Candu. And you wouldn't be able to tell at all if you asked her or looked at her expression in games. In what could be considered a "rough start" to the season by the high standards Dupree has set for herself with her play the last few seasons, the player wearing number 4 is still giving you 10 and 5 a night so far on 50% shooting. I know of quite a few players that would love to do that in a career year, much less be considered "down". I think as the season goes on Dupree will get closer to her career numbers of 15 and 7. We haven't seen much of her in the pick and roll with Taurasi early on because the Merc have been focusing, and rightfully so, on moving the ball quickly but it's the most unstoppable play in the world and with those two players involved you can't go wrong.

Erin Phillips: Now to the untrained eye, one might say that Erin Phillips isn't playing well. 3-11 from the field (1-5 from trey) and only one steal in the first two games supports that. But being a point guard here's the numbers that stand out to me: 10 assists and 1 turnover to go along with pulling in 4 boards a night. I have no worries about Phillips missing shots early as she still tries to carve out her niche and as a shooter, the shots will fall. She works tirelessly and will eventually get back into a rhythm and start knocking down shots, which should scare the rest of the league.

Penny Taylor: Man, first off let me say how happy it makes me to see PFT back on the floor to start the season. Regardless of the writings across the web this off-season, I knew Penny wanted to prove that she was going to still be a factor in women's basketball. She hasn't been as aggressive as she normally is, but this is her first real gameplay without thinking twice about everything in almost 2 years. Phoenix will likely bring her along slowly to ensure she's healthy down the stretch, but her vision is still there and even though she hasn't put the points on the board, she's still showing the ability to get where she wants. In both games, she's turned the corner on defenders to draw fouls multiple times.

Mistie Bass: If there's any player in the WNBA that understands and embraces her role, it's Mistie Bass. She comes in and holds down the fort. Last season when Dupree and particularly Griner went to the bench, the opponent would feast on layups and free throws from drives to the basket. Bass moves her feet really well and knows how to use angles on the defensive end of the floor. If she ever develops the ability to finish outside of being wide open, she could really solidify a top-notch post rotation in terms efficiency in the league.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota: Since the drop to 11 roster spots, players tagged as "shooters" have rarely made final rosters and that's mainly due to those players being turnover-prone, defensive liabilities and quite frankly, not making shots. AJZ has done the opposite of those things. Hitting 4-7 threes so far this season and having yet recorded a turnover on the season, AJZ has transitioned quietly into being a key piece off the bench for the Mercury. She wasn't able to follow up her 4-4 performance with LA, but that I would have to put that more on Gruda and Parker being very clear about not leaving the sniper's pocket than her being inconsistent.

Shay Murphy: Shay is another player that's coming in and playing her role well. When she's open she's taking the shot, she's taking care of the ball and competing on the defensive end. So far in the season, she's knocking down 40% of her shots which currently stands as her second best shooting clip and she'll likely see more open shots with this team than she saw in the career shooting year she has in 2012 in Chicago (42% from the floor and 44% from three)

Ewelina Kobryn: Kobryn, as I suspected, is in that fourth spot in the big rotation. She's come into both games and been physical. Her ability to stretch opposing posts out to the three point line is making a quiet impact as every time she's come into the game, she goes into that trail 5 spot and opened up the driving lane for Mercury wings. She also hasn't been afraid to use her fouls, which is key and taken care of the ball. At the end of it all, Kobryn is a wily vet who's been in winning situations and knows what it takes, and that's a nice piece to have if you need to call on it as the season ticks on.

Tiffany Bias: Bias is a bit small when considering the current crop of WNBA point guards and is going to struggle with the strength of the next level as evidenced in her minutes in the preseason kickoff tourney. But in the minutes she got against the Storm, Bias proved to be who we thought she was. Fitting that her first points as a WNBA player came on a steal and fast break layup. Bias' speed and desire to push the ball relentlessly do give the Mercury a different look and going against the likes of Erin Phillips and Diana Taurasi everyday while also having them offer insight, along with former Aussie guard Brondello blowing the whistle, the sky is the limit for Bias and her future as a WNBA point guard.