Archive for category Phoenix Mercury
Weeks 6 was host to quite a few shake-ups and shockers on and off the court. With the midpoint of the season approaching as well as the Rio Olympics, teams are having to face some hard truths. Truths such as: Do we really have a chance to compete this season? If so, what can we do to get there? If not, who do we want to be going forward?
The theme of this week is buyer’s beware. Don’t be deceived for there are a few impostors afoot. From a game perspective, there were many teams who clearly weren’t themselves. Either some were not engaged and, obviously, played poorly. While some others, played slightly better than the sum of their parts. And from an organizational perspective, there were a handful of trade moves highlighting some team’s sense of urgency or desperation. Whatever the case may be, changes are coming.
Grade the Trade
- Phoenix Mercury / Connecticut Sun / Grade: B+
Connecticut Sun trade Kelsey Bone (G) to the Phoenix Mercury for rookie Courtney Williams, Jillian Alleyne draft rights, and a 2017 second round pick.
This is quite the haul for Bone coming in at a commendable 10-5-1. But I like this move for the Mercury actually. Given my limited time watching Bone. She does seem to have the ability to be a good two way player helping out both Griner and Taurasi. Bone actually played a few minutes versus the Liberty with some soft results. While this helps the Mercury’s depth, I still believe they have some chemistry issues that need addressing.
The Sun are most likely going for the long game acquiring more young players, more talented young players. Morgan Tuck (averaging 8-1-3), Banham, & Jones have proven to be a solid contributors. And they’re starting to play at a click where they’re making some teams truly sweat it out.
- Seattle Storm / Grade: B-
On its surface, this looks as though the Storm are trimming the dead-weight off their roster. In my opinion, Gatling was always a liability given her lack size and moreover, lack of production. She wasn’t able to get rebounds or yield any sort of authority down low. Blake was an unfortunate given her lack of playing time. But when you’re in the same rookie class and team of the god-send that is Breanna Stewart. One can begin to understand how it’d be difficult to stand out.
Bringing Thomas back into the mix gives the Storm at least some semblance of size in the post. And Quinn should add some back court relief ideally so the big 3 don’t have to keep their current average of 33-36 minutes per game. Looking at Quinn’s and Thomas’ splits, both have traveled a fair amount and have terribly inconsistent. I’m not sold on either filling the gaps plaguing this Storm team. But it’s a start.
Atlanta Dream / Grade: C-
The Atlanta Dream claim center Markeisha Gatling off waivers and sign her to a contract. The Dream also waive forward Cierra Burdick to finalize the roster move.
I’ve put the screws to Gatling since week 1 due to her lack of production. I realize this isn’t completely fair since I’ve never seen her play in previous years. So I admit, I’m working with an information deficit. Another way to look at it is, maybe Gatling just wasn’t a good fit for the Storm style of play. I don’t necessarily buy that, but maybe. Having said that, I fail to see what value, if any, Gatling can bring the Dream. With Sancho Lyttle is back, her and Elizabeth Williams have that interior under control. But maybe this change of scenery is what Gatling needs to start producing. Only time will tell. As for Burdick, I swear I’ve watched every Dream game to date and honestly have no idea of seeing her ever touch the floor.
Game of the Week: Minnesota Lynx (76) vs L.A. Sparks (94) – The Rematch!
The first match up between these two titan was more of an appetizer. Jump a few days later and we finally got the main feast. This was a massively improvement over the first game, probably too good. In the case of the Lynx, there were too many situations where they tried to force the ball to the basket instead of opting for the bank shot. That would usually work against lesser teams, but the Sparks were happy to accept the ensuing turnover. Furthermore, the Sparks came out with a more patient approach. They weren’t as sporadic and really dictated the flow of the game by how much they passed the ball. Shout out to Nneka Ogwumike (just shy of hitting her normal double double at 20 -9-3) and Kristi Toliver who rained daggers non-stop (88% FG%, 15 of 17 from the field).
Even with these deadly sharpshooters, the Lynx kept themselves in the game within 2-4 points. But it wasn’t until the 5 minute mark of the 4th, the game started to pull away. The Lynx weren’t able to finish in the lane, shooting at 66%. And quite simply calls weren’t going their way. Maya Moore maintained her pace as being a solid contender for this year’s MVP entering an impressive 23-3-4.
The Box Score is a LIE!
If someone were to rank these teams solely based on the box score of the past few weeks. I’m certain the ranks would be all out of whack. Hell, it has already started with some of the wild statements I’m seeing on various social media platforms. Even with my wet-nose, rookie insight into the WNBA, I still feel a need to throw a little course correction to some of these platitudes. Mainly…
- Phoenix is back!
Stop it, people! The start of the week, Phoenix ate an overtime lose to the Dallas Wings. The game versus the Mystics was a good showing by the Mercury. Regardless, they still displayed the same signs of not being in sync in both game. But given their depth of talent, they easily prevailed over a slightly overachieving Mystics team. The follow-up game versus the Liberty was a pure mix of getting good calls. The Liberty had the Mercury dead to rights the entire game until Taurasi sold that 3 point flopper in the last 03 seconds of the fourth quarter going into overtime. Even overtime was dominated by the Liberty until a handful of bad calls ultimately leading to Kiah Stokes fouling out which gift-wrapped a win for Phoenix. Even with the new team assets, this is still a team that needs to establish some sort of baseline with each other before I buy into them being true contenders again.
- The Lynx are breaking down
Again, pipe down. The lose to the Washington Mystics stirred a bit of commotion. There were a few factors at play here. I do think Minnesota severely under-estimated the Mystics. And after being punched in the mouth by the Sparks, I’m sure their egos were a bit deflated as well. But kudos to Emma Meesseman & Tayler Hill, both came out like gangbusters and gave the Lynx the business. The Lynx are still arguably the best team in the league; I have no doubt about it. Sometimes, good teams just lose.
- Becky Hammon Jersey Retirement: I never how much of an accomplished player Becky Hammon was: 8th all-time in points scored, 4th all-time in assists, 3rd all-time in made 3 pointers, 89.7% from the line (best in Stars history). What am Quiet honestly, I only knew her in relation to being one of the assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs. But outpouring of love from the around the league was touching.
- WNBA Top 20 at 20: Recognizing the great one of this game. Surprisingly, this list skews more on the young side since most of the selection are active players. But this is still awesome none the less. Kudos to you all.
- Rebecca Allen: Coming back from a season-ending knee injury last year, Allen has demonstrated she’s going to be a capable role player in that Liberty lineup. I expect her playing time to increase slowly while monitoring her knee rehab. Keep an eye out for her.
- Pat Summit Passing: And sadly, Coach Pat Summit has passed away at 64. Coach Summit’s accomplishments and impact was recognized throughout the sports world as a whole. And she was a truly beloved figures for many players, fans, and countless others. Condolences and best thoughts go out to Coach Summit’s family and loved ones.
Week 6 WNBA Power Ranking:
1. L.A. Sparks: I still feel the Lynx are a better team. But the Sparks record speaks for itself
2. Minnesota Lynx: back-to-back loses is no reason to hit the panic button just yet
3. New York Liberty: See Quick Takes
4. Washington Mystics: They’ve been punching above their weight. I get the feeling they’re on a bit of a hot streak right now. Let’s see how long they can ride it out. I hesitated moving them up this high
5. Chicago Sky: EDD and Cappie Pondexter continue to drive this team into competitive games. They just need to hold on to leads
6. Dallas Wings: This team is still finding its feet. If they keep winning, I can see them jumping into top 4-5 fairly soon
7. Atlanta Dream: This teams frustrates me on so many levels, mainly because I don’t know if they’re bad or just lucky
8. Indiana Fever: Much like their record, this team has one foot out the door. I’m not sure if this team knows who they want to be (or can be) post Stephanie White
9. Phoenix Mercury: See above points. They’re not back quite yet
10. Seattle Storm: Tough to say how this Storm team will complete coming off a win. Let’s see how it plays out these next weeks
11. San Antonio Stars: The trio of Hamby, K-Mac, and Currie are starting to yield some wins
12. Connecticut Sun: Too young for any sort of discussion right now
Week 3 brought us a lot of rematches with predictable outcomes. Minnesota and LA sit comfortably at the top of the heap while the rest of the league scrap at each other for scrapes. I don’t want to over-react but I’m gonna’ over react: Minnesota and LA will go head-to-head in the finals. The talent and dynamics those teams have developed has yet to be challenged. But again, it’s only week 3. And it’d be a shame to dismiss some of the impressive developments around the league. I won’t get to all the teams or recap all the games from last week, only the broad strokes of what stuck out.
The Seattle Breeze
There’s this stigma about Seattle called the Seattle Freeze. The notion is that it is extremely difficult to make friend with people there. Sure, the people are nice and share common pleasantries with you, but that’s the extent of the interaction. It’s a very superficial exchange, building relationships on a deeper level is a difficult task few care to take on. And this pretty much sums up this current Storm team. They look like a basketball team. They play like a basketball team. But a certain chemistry is missing and the flaws are glaring.
On the plus side, the big 3 of Loyd, Bird, and Stewart is solid. They play off each other seamlessly and have no problem sharing the ball (see below). But there’s a terrible streak of inconsistency everywhere else. They’re the second worst team in total turnovers. The perimeter defense is horrendous. And I’m pretty certain they’re allergic when it comes to playing in the post. When your centers are only averaging 1-2 rebounds a game, something is definitely needs to be fixed.
Which leads to another issue, the Storm want to play small ball. But they just don’t have the talent for it. This is also a huge reason for the glut of unforced turnovers. It’s just maddeningly confusing why they won’t play to their players strengths. Case in point, Tokashiki. Check the video below of Ramu’s highlights in the JP league. It’s clear as day that all of her offensive prowess comes from working in the post, not sitting out on the wing and setting weak screens. Yet, I have no doubt this mismanagement will continue to happen every game going forward. On this Storm offense, she looks like a fish out of water and completely lost. Furthermore, her teammates clearly don’t trust her. There’s more than a few occasions where they will not pass to her when she’s cutting into the lane. But the Storm knew what they were getting when they signed that bill of goods. Look, I realize players tend to develop other parts of their game. But that’s not the case here. This is clearly a situation of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. I don’t intend fo this to sound like a ‘I hate Tokashiki’ rant, because I don’t. If anything, I think she’d be a huge help if she was utilized to what she is. On the positive side of things, she is decent defensively and great at creating turnover opportunities.
Also, shout out to Breanna Stewart’s ‘Welcome to the WNBA’ moment.
Not Perfect, but I Like It…A Lot!
Lately, I’ve really taken a shine to the New York Liberty. They’re not the deepest team in terms of talent. Their defense needs work, especially on the perimeter. But I absolutely LOVE their chemistry on the court. They gritty, and it shows. Clearly, this is the Tina Charles show, but the cast around her really plays up to their role. And that’s really what makes this team work. Every knows their role and performs accordingly. Even the newly acquired Shoni Schimmel (who’s essentially a relief player now) fits and catches fire at the right moment. Sugar Rodgers is now averaging double digits per game (16.3) with Zellous not too far behind at 8.7 PPG. Stokes and Swords are great in the paint on both ends of the court. They play with a passion and a physicality I don’t see in many other teams. It’s as though Bill Laimbeer has found a way to transfer that 90’s Pistons’ nastiness into the team. Again, they’re not the most sound team and have the tendency to play themselves into flow. To put it another way, they first half of the game is spent feeling a team out, then they’ll really turn it out in the second half. When they go uptempo, they’re damn impressive. But by that time, the game could almost be taken away from them against better teams (i.e. Minnesota and LA). Win or lose, this team will play you hard. I love it!
The Atlanta Dr………. huh? What?
For a team that’s ranked third in the standings, the Atlanta Dream is the one team I have the hardest time following. I enjoy watching McCoughtry play. She is easily one of the best two-way players I’ve seen in this league. It’s just a shame I find it so hard connecting with anyone else on this team. The Dream seem to be the complete antithesis of the New York Liberty in terms of how dynamic they are on the court. Ironically, the Dream are way more fundamentally sound than the Liberty: cleaner passing lanes, better FG% , and higher overall offensive rating. Despite all that, I’m practical unimpressed with any of that. It should be pointed out, that the Dream have taken on fairly softer targets early on and they were road wins, which accounts for creating better team synergy. Let’s see if this chemistry holds going into this stretch of home games.
Game of the week: New York Liberty (91) vs Indiana Fever (59)
When I saw this score, I immediately had to check the box score. I figured Catchings or Tiffany Mitchell must have been injured. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. While watching this game WNBA League Pass, both teams were pretty evenly matched for the entire game. Plus, I was confused how the Fever could lose in such bad fashion after playing such a dominate game against the Storm just a few days earlier. But it all started to click in the midway into the fourth quarter. The Liberty pulled ahead by double digits and the Fever started to play with more desperation. Bad shot selections and unforced turnovers in the last minutes allowed the Liberty to drive up the score for a comfortable win.
- Swin Cash Retiring: It’s not only Tamika Catchings that’ll be hanging it up this year. Swin Cash will retire after this season as well. With so many of this key legendary players retiring or getting close to retirement. It’s really up to this new generation to carry the torch.
- San Antonio Stars: Poor Kayla McBride and Dearica Hamby. The Stars are just a wreck of team right now. In a way, they remind me of the OKC Thunder. Where you have two superstars surround by a supporting cast of mediocrity. I think it’s safe to say this team won’t make the playoffs unfortunately. While we’re on the topic of being barely tolerable.
- Phoenix Mercury: I’ve talked about this team to death now and I’m just as confused now as I was then. What the hell is happening? Taurasi’s been great. Griner is finally back into it. Bonner’s consistently solid everywhere. Even Penny Taylor has been putting up great numbers from previous years. How are these games just slipping away from them? The Seattle game should’ve been sowed up comfortably. And they even gave the Lynx a close one. It’s something about the fourth quarter where things just go to shambles. It’s not desperation play entirely either. This is a better team than their record indicates.
- Indiana Fever: This another uptempo team that is sneakily good everywhere. Offensively, they’re great at spreading the ball around and creating outside shots as well as creating lanes to the rim. Defensively their perimeter defense needs work, but that’s something I see a lot of these teams need. But they’re great at cutting off passing lanes and sealing up the baseline. Catchings speaks to herself. Tiffany Mitchell is essentially Jewell Loyd #2 given how fiery she is and how well she stretches the floor. Throw in Lynetta Kizer and Erlana Larkins down low and you got something going. I especially like Larkins’ work in the post. The way she’s able to use the full range of her body and take advantage of her size is great. Not afraid to get physical and create space for herself. This another team that has to feel teams out but when they get going, watch out. With Stephanie White going on to Vanderbilt and losing Catchings next year, I hope they make a monster run this season.
- Dallas Wings: Shout out to Aerial Powers. Really like how the rookie is stepping up in the absence of Skylar Diggins. By extension this applies to Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims as well.
WNBA Week 3 Power Rankings:
- Minnesota Lynx: There’s no need to keep going on about how great they are. They’re in their own echelon right now.
- LA Sparks: The Sparks are right up there but in my opinion they’ve faced some softer opponents than the Lynx. But make no mistake, Parker and crew are playing phenomenal.
- Atlanta Dream: Even though they don’t pass my dynamic flow radar. Game recognizes game and they have something going here.
- New York Liberty: As much as I like watching this team, they need to start coming out the gate ready and not playing themselves into game form.
- Indiana Fever: Once they stop playing desperate in the stretch of the fourth quarter, they may actually hold on to winning.
- Chicago Sky: My home town Sky, we’ll be talking more about them next week.
- Seattle Storm: See previous section above
- Washington Mystics: This is a team that started out somewhat decent but seems to be plagued by onset chemistry issues, especially on the offensive side of things.
- Dallas Wings: Let’s see what happens when (if) Diggins comes back
- Phoenix Mercury: See previous section above
- Connecticut Sun: Still figuring it out
- San Antonio Stars: See previous section above