WNBA Free Agency List & Analysis: Phoenix Mercury

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.


2 comments on “WNBA Free Agency List & Analysis: Phoenix Mercury

  1. Alex says:

    No doubt that the Mercury traded Johnson to free up cap space – but I have a sneaky feeling that they also predicted something better coming down the pike. Hard to say though, the 2007 championship team didn’t really have a true “point” guard, yet still experienced success. Riley is still lacking in experience, not sure if she could run this team at the point, but might not be a bad backup option. Swanier could possibly run the point – if she’d ever learn how to pass and not dribble down the shot clock.

    Lawson and Thomas have great potential, and I hope they’re given a chance. When Thomas came off the bench for her first Mercury game, she was quite impressive. Not bad for a kid who walked onto the team a few days prior. If she learns fast, she will be a great fit in Phoenix. With Lawson, it’s just nice to see someone who can guard some of the best 1’s & 2’s in the league. Heck, any kind of half-way descent defense from the Mercury is nice to see.

    No doubt if the Mercury acquire Bird, it would rock the league. But Bird’s ties are strong in Seattle, I highly doubt she would even explore the idea of going to another team. People who are dreaming of Phoenix getting Bird can keep dreaming.

    Not sure, but if I were WIggins or Houston, I would welcome being on another team who could give me more minutes, after multiple seasons of busting ass, then getting pushed to the end of the bench in ’11. (Houston’s minutes were cut to just 1/3rd where they were the year before.) Eh, but that’s just me.

    Spencer is gone. She’s a nice kid, but If they keep her, then I doubt they would have the cap space to lure any good free agent.

    We’ll wait and see I guess. Here’s hoping…

    • If you think Swanier needs to learn how to pass, wait until you’re watching Riley close up ;).

      Wiggins and especially Houston couldn’t really complain about their minutes being cut in Minnesota, because better players were receiving the minutes in front of them. Which doesn’t mean they couldn’t be of use somewhere else. I don’t think Wiggins is really a point guard, but Kelly Miller was barely a point guard when she arrived in Phoenix as well, and that worked out pretty nicely. Houston has always seemed like a strikingly obvious fit with the Mercury. She’s undersized, loves to shoot, and plays no defense. Personally I’d like to see the Mercury address some of their deficiencies, but history suggests they’ll probably just go for more offense.

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