With the WNBA Finals and World Cup over, it’s time to take a look back at what each WNBA team did this season and forward at what their offseason goals should be. With the Atlanta Dream already covered by Avery Wiggins, we move on to the No. 8 seed Phoenix Mercury, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Mercury statistical rankings (per game)
- 10th net rating (-3.8)
- 7th scoring (81.1)
- 8th offensive rating (102.6)
- 10th scoring defense (84.1)
- 10th defensive rating (106.4)
- 10th field goal percentage (42.9)
- 9th field goal percentage defense (44.1)
- 4th 3-pointers made (8.8)
- 11th 3-point percentage (32.9)
- 9th 3-pointers allowed (8.3)
- 11th 3-point percentage defense (36.6)
- 6th free throw attempts (18.6)
- 4th personal fouls drawn (18.4)
- 5th free throw percentage (81.7)
- 11th personal fouls (19.8)
- 8th opponents free throw attempts (19.4)
- 12th offensive rebounds (6.8)
- 12th offensive rebounds allowed (9.7)
- 9th defensive rebounds (24.3)
- 10th defensive rebounds allowed (27.5)
- 11th total rebounds (31.2)
- 12th total rebounds allowed (37.2)
- 5th TOVs (13.3)
- 2nd opponents steals (6.4)
- 5th TOVs forced (14.2)
- 7th steals (7.4)
- 1st blocks (4.5)
- 2nd opponents blocks (3.2)
- 8th assists (19.2)
- 6th assists allowed (20.6)
Analysis of statistical rankings/offseason goals
The Mercury were first in blocked shots with Brianna Turner leading the way at 1.6 rejections per game. They were also good at avoiding getting their shots blocked, placing second in that category. Phoenix also had a positive turnover margin, a lot of made threes and a good free throw percentage.
However, the team struggled in some key categories. Despite finishing eighth in the standings, its net rating was 10th. Its field goal percentage was also 10th and its 3-point percentage and 3-point defense were both 11th. Where the Mercury really struggled was on the glass, finishing 11th in rebounds and 12th in rebounds allowed.
Height would help with the rebounding. Without Brittney Griner, Phoenix’s tallest players are Turner and Megan Gustafson (both 6-foot-3). Aside from that, the Mercury really need some more shooters and to work on defense.
Under contract for 2023*
- Skylar Diggins-Smith (protected) (PG)
- Diamond DeShields (protected) (SG/SF)
- Brianna Turner (protected) (PF)
Unrestricted free agents*
- Diana Taurasi (SG)
- Brittney Griner (C)
- Kia Nurse (SG)
- Reshanda Gray (PF)
Restricted free agents*
- Sophie Cunningham (SG/SF)
- Megan Gustafson (C)
- Shey Peddy (PG)
- Sam Thomas (SG/SF)
Analysis of players/offseason goals
First of all, #FreeBG — she has been wrongfully detained 231 days too long. I’m not going to discuss her being a free agent. Obviously bringing her home safely is much bigger than basketball.
The GOAT is also a free agent and last time she was, she signed a two-year supermax deal to stay in Phoenix. At the time, it was considered a good story for the women’s game that the GOAT was able to benefit from the new CBA and get her due before retiring. What should the Mercury pay her this time around? She’s 40 years old so it’s hard to imagine her getting the supermax again, but she is still playing at a very high level. It’s hard to imagine her wearing any other jersey.
Kia Nurse unfortunately hasn’t been able to make the most of her time in Phoenix, although this did happen in 2021:
Nurse was unable to play in the 2021 Finals, which the Mercury lost, because of an ACL tear that also kept her out for all of 2022. She was an All-Star in 2019 and was considered a key addition for the Mercury after she was traded for. Her 3-point percentage took a concerning dip to 23.8 percent in the wubble, but she raised it back up to her 2019 level of 35.3 in 2021. The Mercury were a superteam entering 2022, but without Griner and Tina Charles, they are back to Nurse being one of their biggest stars and will likely place a high value on her in free agency.
Sophie Cunningham is a restricted free agent, so the Mercury will have the opportunity to match any offers other teams make. Phoenix may want to prioritize Cunningham ahead of Nurse, given that she is on the rise. In 2022, she received seven votes for most improved player, averaged 12.6 points per game, shot 40 percent from beyond the arc with 70 makes and even had a 36-point game. The vibe of the situation says Cunningham could be a bigger star than Nurse over the next few years. They are both 26 years old.
Shey Peddy may not be a big star, but she has been a thorn in opponents’ sides ever since she arrived in Phoenix, including her former team the Washington Mystics when she made that shot to beat them in the 2020 playoffs. She has just been gritty and scrappy and has played with a chip on her shoulder because she was an afterthought in Washington and is just now becoming a key contributor in the league at age 33. 28.6 minutes, 9.9 points, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 2022 is nothing to sneeze at. If the Mercury aren’t able to keep her, they will miss her.
As far as positional needs, the Mercury need a center seeing as Turner is more of a power forward. Perhaps Gustafson could step up and start to play a bigger role at the position, but Phoenix likely wants someone even better for the starting lineup.
* Per Her Hoop Stats