It’s now or never for the Phoenix Mercury!
That they have only one draft pick — the No. 32 selection in the third round — is illustrative of how “all in” the Mercury are on the chase for another championship.
Phoenix would have been drafting No. 8 in the 2021 WNBA Draft, but they preemptively traded this pick in the 2020 offseason in order to acquire Skylar Diggins-Smith. They then traded the No. 6 selection in this year’s draft, which they received from the Connecticut Sun in exchange for DeWanna Bonner last offseason, to the New York Liberty for Kia Nurse and Megan Walker. The Mercury also sent their 2022 first-round pick to the Liberty in this transaction.
In short, Phoenix cannot rely on high draftees to augment their championship upside. Instead, they’ll have to hope to find a gem or two on the margins.
Yet, salary cap and roster size constraints will make this already difficult task ever trickier. While they currently have 13 players on their training camp roster, it is likely that the Mercury will begin the season with only 11 players due to the number of high-salary players on their roster.
Here’s what the Mercury might look to do with their lone, late draft pick:
Third round: No. 32 pick
As WNBA drafts tend to become unpredictable about midway through the second round, Phoenix should enter the night with a rather robust draft board, ready to pick who they believe to be the best player remaining when pick No. 32 comes around.
Bolstering their frontcourt could be the direction.
Outside of Brianna Turner, who blossomed during the second half of her sophomore season, uncertainty surrounds Phoenix’s other bigs. It is likely that questions will linger about Brittney Griner’s longterm commitment to the WNBA. Likewise, while Kia Vaughn is a more-than-serviceable backup big, this will be her age 34 season. Alanna Smith has yet to establish herself as the reliable stretch 4 that she was drafted to be.
Although it is unlikely that the Mercury can find their big of the future at No. 32, it is worth the roll of a dice. Swish Appeal’s draft guru Eric Nemchock recommends Janelle Bailey (North Carolina). Sturdy and strong at 6’4”, Bailey has the size needed to survive as a center in the WNBA, or at least bang with Griner during training camp.
As an alternative, Phoenix could try to grab a 3-and-D wing. While the Mercury are hoping that Kia Nurse and Megan Walker will be draining deep balls in the desert, another player who can make the many open 3s that Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley create could provide an immediate impact. If one of Selena Lott (Marquette), Destiny Slocum (Arkansas) or Aleah Goodman (Oregon State) falls into the third round, Phoenix should snag her.