WNBAlien Special – Grading the Trade: Braxton moving again

For the second year in a row, Kara Braxton has found herself packing her bags just before the WNBA trade deadline. Less than 12 months ago she was brought in by Phoenix in the hope that she’d be the necessary final piece to win another championship, at the expense of a first-round draft pick. This time, they’ve given her away for the very last player on the end of the New York Liberty bench. What a difference a year makes.

Braxton is an enormously frustrating player. For someone with such a huge frame, she actually moves fairly well in the paint (although often not from one end of the floor to the other). She can be an efficient scorer inside, she’s got some range, and she’s not afraid to use that big body to fight it out for rebounds. But it comes at a price. While she’s been better in recent years, she was well known in her Detroit years for boneheaded errors that cost her team points, possessions and momentum. At times, she’s a turnover waiting to happen. It’s only so annoying because you can see frequent flashes of just how gifted she is, which makes the mistakes all the more disappointing. And that’s just the negatives on the floor.

Braxton missed Tuesday’s game in Minnesota due to a one-game suspension for ‘conduct detrimental to the team’. Exactly what that was still remains a matter of speculation, but some reports suggest she ‘mouthed off’ to head coach Corey Gaines. Reportedly she wasn’t at practice on Thursday, but there was no information as to whether she just didn’t show up, or if the team told her to stay away. It’s far from the first time that Braxton has had behavioural issues. She was thrown off the team at the University of Georgia after multiple suspensions for conduct issues. She’s been suspended twice in the WNBA, for a total of eight games, for DUI convictions. It’s left her with a reputation as something of a malcontent and headcase which can hardly be considered undeserved, and makes the recent events in Phoenix unsurprising. But they knew all this coming in. The Mercury traded for her despite all the baggage, considered her worth a draft pick that they knew was going to be mid-first round (eventually 7th overall, which became Kayla Pedersen), and then gave her a max-level contract extension through 2012. Either Corey Gaines’s skin has grown awfully thin, or there was more to this than a little mouthing off. Continue reading

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WNBA Today, 07/25/2011: Where Trade Winds Might Blow, Western Edition

Before we get to the Western Conference half of the trade possibilities feature, first let’s round up the signing news from around the league. Chicago filled their empty spot by signing Eshaya Murphy to a seven-day contract (which makes my reminder that they still held her rights a couple of days ago look surprisingly prescient). After four seasons in the WNBA spread across six different cities, Murphy’s yet to shoot over 38% in any of them. So don’t expect her to set the World on fire. She will at least give them another option on the wing though, which is better than nothing. And nothing is about what they were getting from Angie Bjorklund.

No news yet out of New York on their 11th roster spot, but there was more movement in Washington today. DeMya Walker was officially acquired, but slipped into the release was the news that Karima Christmas wasn’t the only player who’d been waived – Ta’Shia Phillips is gone too. Taken by Atlanta with the 8th pick in this year’s draft, presumably on instructions from Washington who acquired her as part of the Lindsey Harding trade later the same day, it’s shocking to see the Mystics quit on Phillips so quickly. She hasn’t looked great in the brief glimpses we’ve seen of her on WNBA floors by any means, but this is a 6-6 center. And the team is terrible. These are the kids you should be building with, not discarding at the first opportunity in favour of journeymen like Walker whose careers are nearly over. It’s a bizarre move from Washington.

How do you decide that Phillips is worth the #8 pick, work with her for barely a couple of months, and then throw her away when your season’s already heading down the toilet? Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/24/2011: Where Trade Winds Might Blow, Eastern Edition

I’m intending to write another installment of ‘Your WNBA Questions Answered’ soon, so send in your queries about anything relating to the league via email, twitter, comments at the end of this piece or anywhere else you can get ahold of me. The first edition was here, if you want some idea of what sort of issues I tackled last time around. Anything about the league or the women’s game is welcome.

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Okay, so the first half of the WNBA season is over, the All-Star game is done and dusted, and there aren’t any games until Tuesday. Also, while contracts may have just become guaranteed, we still have three weeks to go until the trading deadline. Those who’ve followed the WNBA in previous seasons will know that this doesn’t exactly tend to herald a hive of activity around the league. The biggest move last year was the trade that sent Kara Braxton to Phoenix, helping them reach the Western Conference Finals only to get swept by Seattle. Which is probably exactly what they’d have achieved if they hadn’t traded for Kara Braxton. The year before, a Tamera Young/Armintie Price swap was the highlight. We have to go back to 2008 and Detroit’s move for Taj McWilliams-Franklin to find a deadline-week move that had a legitimate effect on the destination of the championship, but that trade at least illustrates that they can happen.

So I thought I’d utilise this brief pause in the season to take a look at what teams need, what they have to offer, and who might be most active in calling around for an extra piece over the next few weeks. There isn’t a single team in the league without any holes, so you never know what might happen. Eastern Conference teams today, Western Conference tomorrow, tackling the teams in order of the current standings (just as a break from my typical alphabetical order). Feel free to comment in the space below the article if you’ve got any better ideas – some of the WNBA’s GMs could use all the help they can get.

 

Indiana

The most obvious place that the Fever might be looking for help is at point guard. With Briann January out for the season after her ACL tear, they’ve been using backups Erin Phillips and Shannon Bobbitt for the last few weeks. Phillips has gotten most of the minutes, and has been doing a pretty decent job. Her shooting’s been markedly better than January’s, and her turnovers are significantly lower, but her assists are far lower than January’s as well. Even taking just her games as the starting point guard, Phillips is only at 3.4 assists per game. She isn’t a natural point, and she isn’t as comfortable in the offense as January was. Katie Douglas, who was shooting the lights out early in the year, has dropped off noticeably since Phillips replaced January, and that’s not a coincidence. Douglas has to create more herself now, and there are fewer easy shots available for her. Still, Phillips makes up for a lot of that with her own shooting.

The fact is that Indy are unlikely to find an upgrade on Phillips on the open market. Continue reading