After coming up just short of advancing to the 2018 WNBA Finals, the Mercury opened up the 2019 free agency period by re-signing a familiar name in Briann January.
Phoenix originally traded for January two months before the start of the 2018 season. Last season, the Arizona State product averaged 7 points, 3.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds from 33 appearances.
Re-signing January was a wise decision for the Mercury as they look to make another Finals run with their core of Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner still intact. January’s ability to space the floor, run the offense and lock down on defense will help the team out big-time down the line. The 32-year-old guard is a 3-and-D player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball without having her number called every play or at all.
January led the WNBA in three-point percentage last season, shooting a career-high 47 percent from behind the arc. With the Mercury signing Essence Carson six days after re-signing January, the two guards will help push the franchise forward.
Insert Briann January
Obviously, Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello could start either January or Carson in the backcourt with Taurasi. But January should get the starting nod because of the chemistry that she has already forged with the team.
Another factor to consider is that January is more of a pass-first guard, which is needed considering the usage percentage of Taurasi (28.5), Griner (27) and Bonner (23.2). In order to space the floor effectively and make sure the ball is constantly moving, January needs to be in the starting lineup.
While Carson is a solid scoring option and can torch the defense in a variety of ways with her ability to post up, catch and shoot and create space with her signature step-back, the Rutgers product’s score-first mentality would be better suited coming off the bench.
Keeping January in the starting five will help Phoenix remain balanced in the half-court offense and on the fast break. The 10-year veteran has a knack for making her teammates better with or without the ball in her hands.
Both Taurasi and Griner experience double teams, which opens up the wings for others to hit open corner threes. Considering January’s 47 percent three-point percentage last season — off of three attempts per game — she is a viable option to take these shots.
January also opens up the floor for the rest of the team when she is hitting wide-open shots. She also puts pressure on the defense when she attacks the rim and draws two defenders, which clears the back-door cut or removes the weak-side help.
In addition to her ability to put pressure on the defense, January lightens the workload for Taurasi so she doesn’t have to bring the ball up the court come crunch time. In bringing back January, the Mercury hold onto a floor leader that can score, play defense, provide energy and run the offense.
At the end of the 2018 season, January averaged a 12.4 usage percentage, which doesn’t show how much she affects the offensive flow throughout the season. Although she only averaged 3.3 assists per game last season, she has some type of involvement in each offensive play.
Return of the veteran
Considering the fact that January was traded to Phoenix right before the 2018 season, the veteran was able to mesh with the rest of the team quickly.
Prior to playing in Phoenix, she won a WNBA title in 2012 with the Indiana Fever in her third year in the league. While in Indiana, she got to play alongside one of the all-time greats in Tamika Catchings.
Needless to say, January is a proven veteran and can help any team win or improve on both sides of the ball. The four-time WNBA All-Defensive First Team guard provides Phoenix with a lockdown guard who can defend positions one through three if needed.
All in all, January will help the Mercury enter the 2019 season with a balanced attack on both sides of the ball. The team will have yet another proven leader, winner and veteran on the roster who can help the franchise chase their fourth ring in franchise history.