Unrestricted Free Agents: Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Sidney Spencer
Restricted Free Agents: Ketia Swanier
Reserved: Alexis Gray-Lawson, Krystal Thomas
Unlike so many other teams, this is all about who the Mercury might be able to bring in, not who they’ll be able to keep. They obviously have little interest in Sidney Spencer, because they didn’t even give her the qualifying offer that would’ve made her a restricted free agent. Marie Ferdinand-Harris was wildly overpaid yet again last season, and may return if the Mercury strike out on more appealing options (but hopefully at a lower figure than last season). They’ll probably want to keep Swanier around after the years she’s already played in their system, but they’ll be hoping it’s at the veteran minimum (if anyone else wants to pay her more than that – which admittedly seems unlikely – I’d let her walk). Alexis Gray-Lawson and Krystal Thomas will both probably receive minimum deals for the chance to make the squad in training camp.
Now for the meaningful bit. They dumped starting point guard Temeka Johnson in a trade for Andrea Riley a couple of weeks ago, and the only way that move makes sense is if they use the consequent cap space to make a splash. Having given away Kara Braxton during the season, and with Ferdinand-Harris’s contract expiring, they already had some room to work with – and with Johnson gone they’ve added an extra $50,000 or so. The most obvious hole is at the point, because none of Swanier, Riley or Gray-Lawson are likely to be the answer. Sue Bird would be the first choice by a mile, but Seattle would’ve cored her if they’d felt there was any chance that she would leave. Candice Wiggins may well be the next option, and with Diana Taurasi’s passing ability they may well feel that Wiggins wouldn’t have to play as any kind of ‘true’ point guard to fit easily in their backcourt. Other point guard options like Leilani Mitchell, Ticha Penicheiro and Erin Phillips could interest them as well, as could wings like Tanisha Wright, Essence Carson and Armintie Price if they think there’s any chance of luring them away from their current teams. There’s also always the fallback option of bringing Kelly Miller back into the fold and trying to recapture her former success with Phoenix (maybe even with Coco along for the ride), although that has to be at least Plan C.
It’s not just the guards that they’ll be chasing. No one quite knows the status of Penny Taylor yet, but she may well skip the first half of the WNBA season to rest and prepare for the Olympics with Australia, which would likely force perennial Sixth Woman of the Year candidate DeWanna Bonner out onto the wing to replace her. That would leave Candice Dupree and Nakia Sanford as their only recognised post players, outside of the decidedly raw Thomas. Wiggins’s teammate in Minnesota Charde Houston has always been a Mercury style of player, willing to hoist a shot every single time she touches the ball. Her defensive inadequacies would also barely register in Phoenix, where defense is largely optional anyway. Someone like Cathrine Kraayeveld could also be a nice fit with the Mercury given her long range shooting skills.
After the way this roster’s been pared down, the Mercury better find somebody in free agency to help them out in 2012.