2018 Phoenix Mercury Season Preview

Can the Mercury bounce back after two disappointing seasons, or do they continue to stay in the middle of the pack?

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The 2018 WNBA Draft Preview

I know that people love mock drafts. I enjoy them as well. But I also think drafts, as far as who gets chosen when, and the career any given draftee may have is often a crapshoot. For any league that holds a draft, we all know about the #1 pick or first round busts and the third or fourth round steals and surprises. The disappointment of fans when a highly successful player out of college or high school never lives up to their first round pick potential is all too real. But so is the player that comes out of the late rounds to eventually become an All-Star or a leader on a championship caliber team. With that in mind, I am not going to tell you who I think gets drafted first or third or 15th in this draft, I am going to tell you I am most excited to see potentially getting drafted and coming into the WNBA.

Victoria Vivians – 6’1″ Guard, Mississippi State

First, I am really excited to see Victoria Vivians in the WNBA. I like her as a shooter, I like her as good sized guard rather than a slightly undersized forward. I like what she can bring as a good rebounder, because she has really improved her rebounding and I think that is something that she can continue to do as the next level. She won’t be leading the league in rebounds, but she won’t be simply a scorer in this league either.

Jordin Canada – 5’6″ Point Guard, UCLA

I want to see Jordin Canada in a WNBA uniform. I want to see her continue to prove how good she can be. Is she short? Yes, but that shouldn’t stop her from being able to be successful as a confident, exciting leader on a WNBA team. She is very good on both ends and I like her odds at the pro level. She is a player that is highly competitive and WANTS to win.

A’Ja Wilson – 6’5″ Center, South Carolina

A’Ja Wilson is one of the seemingly no brainer picks of this draft, and of course is projected by many to go #1. I am most excited for her to be on an WNBA roster because I think she could be like many of the franchise changing players we have seen the last several years. Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Candace Parker, Brittney Griner, and Breanna Stewart are just a few examples of players that we have seen come into the league and make an immediate impact on their respective teams. A’Ja Wilson can do that for the Las Vegas Aces or Indiana Fever.

Maria Vadeeva – 6’3″ Forward, Dynamo Kursk

Maria Vadeeva is an overseas prospect that could be selected in the first round. She has been playing with WNBA talent in the Euro League, and she is going to be boom or bust, in my opinion for whoever drafts her. With her length and determination, as well as her ability to fill up the stat sheet; she could end up like another Russian basketball player you may have heard of named Andrei Kirilenko. I am most intrigued to see if a team does draft her, will she come play in the WNBA?

Wildcards Baby!

I want to end with just a few of the projected late round players who I am most intrigued to see, 1) if they get drafted, 2) if they make a roster and 3) if they have an impact short or long term in the league. First is Katelynn Flaherty of Michigan. She can really shoot, and she won the 3 point contest last week. But is she one dimensional? Can she improve and impress in other areas enough to make it to a team?

Second wild card is Shakayla Thomas from Florida State. Can she improve in other areas besides her scoring to be a WNBA talent? She is 5’11”, so she going to have to work hard if she wants to stay in the paint in the pros. But I like her, she is a tough, versatile player who might just make it.

Lastly is Natalie Butler of George Mason. A transfer from UConn, she is a rebounding machine and I would love to see her come into the league and play a role off the bench for a team that needs size right now. What are the chances she makes it? Odds aren’t great, but that’s why I have her as a wildcard.

Are there plenty of players in this draft who I didn’t mention who could go either way in the WNBA in the coming years? Heck yes. There are too many talented players and not enough roster spots in the WNBA. And I am not only excited about these particular players, I am just really excited to see what this draft class as a whole can do at the professional league level.

The Top 20 WNBA Players in 2018

Who are the best players in the WNBA at the moment? Who, based on last season’s statistics and the outlook towards the beginning of the 2018 season, are the top individuals in the league? I looked at the top ten players in each of the following categories: points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, blocks per game, 3 point %, true shooting %, offensive rating, defensive rating, and PERs. I made a spreadsheet of all the categories, then determined how many total categories each player had been in the top ten last year. I didn’t give a weighted bias towards any category, but I did do side by side comparison when two players were in multiple different categories, and tried to judge fairly based on overall importance. There were certainly surprises, while other players obviously did well in many categories. With that said, there are a couple of players who did not play at all last season, but merit mention and consideration: Angel McCoughtry and Chiney Ogwumike. Do they make the list? Scroll down to find out!

20. Alyssa Thomas – 6’2′ Forward, Connecticut Sun

AlyssaThomas

Alyssa Thomas was an important part of the young and talented Connecticut Sun that had a breakout season last year. She was in the top ten in assists and steals per game, but was also 9th and 10th respectively in defensive and total rebounds. She averaged a career high 14.8 ppg last season, but one thing she’ll have to work on is her turnovers. She more than anyone else in the league last year at 98.

19. Allie Quigley – 5’10” Guard, Chicago Sky

AllieQuigley

Allie Quigley is a sharpshooter. She was in the top ten of both true shooting percentage and 3 point shooting percentage, and she also won last year’s 3 point contest at her first All-Star Game appearance. A two-time 6th woman of the year, she continues to help lead a Chicago team that is looking to get back to the playoffs in 2018.

18. Elizabeth Williams – 6’3″ Center/Forward, Atlanta Dream

EWilliams

Elizabeth Williams was one of the Dream’s 3 All-Stars last season, and she was in the top ten in both rebounds per game and blocks per game. If she can continue to rebound and block well, she may not need to improve all that much in the scoring department because she will have plenty of other scoring options around her on a Dream team loaded with A LOT of talent this upcoming season.

17. Sue Bird – 5’9″ Guard, Seattle Storm

SueBird

Bird is a legend of the game, but even at the age of 37 she continues to play very well. She was in the top ten in both assists per game and 3 point percentage last season, and any team in the league would take her for skills at running the point, finding open players, shooting well, and overall leadership.

16. Diana Taurasi – 5′ 11′ Guard, Phoenix Mercury

DianaTaurasi

Taurasi, like Bird, is one of the best to ever play in the WNBA. Last season was not her best, but she was still in the top ten in points per game, and is capable of completely taking over any single game at any time. Has she lost a step with age, like Sue Bird? Yes, but not enough that Phoenix would ever think of trading her. The Mercury need her experience and her leadership every game, especially come playoff time.

15. Jewell Loyd – 5’10” Guard, Seattle Storm

JewellLoyd

Loyd was Rookie of the Year in 2014-15, and she continues to grow as one of the best guards and overall players in the league. She was in the top ten in points per game last year, and she had a PER of 19.1. She was also in the top ten in total points and total 3 point field goals. She has improved year by year in her early career, and looks to only get better this season as well.

14. Jasmine Thomas – 5’9″ Guard, Connecticut Sun

JasmineThomas

Another integral piece of the Connecticut Sun’s great season last year, she was top ten in assists per game, steals per game, and 3 point percentage. She was also 3rd in minutes played and 6th in minutes per game, and she averaged a good 14.1 points per game. Another young talented guard, she plays well on both ends of the floor for a young, uptempo team that is really looking forward to being one of the top teams in the league once again this season.

13. Stefanie Dolson – 6’5″ Center, Chicago Sky

StefanieDolson

Dolson was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Elena Delle Donne to the Mystics and moved Dolson and Kahleah Copper (and the 2nd pick which was Alaina Coates) to Chicago. Dolson is one of the best young centers in the game, and her top tens in blocks per game, true shooting percentage, and 3 point shooting percentage means she can play inside and out. She is quite a versatile big, and if she can continue to increase her scoring, as well as improve her rebounding, she will really be a force to be reckoned with not only this season, but in years to come.

12. Chelsea Gray – 5’11” Guard, Los Angeles Sparks

ChelseaGray

Runner-up for last year’s Most Improved Player award, Chelsea Gray is thriving in Los Angeles since her trade from Connecticut in 2016. She was top ten last year in assists, 3 point percentage (she ranked first at 48%), true shooting percentage, and offensive rating. She has come into her own as the new starting point guard on arguably the most individually talented team in the league. After Kristi Toliver left for Washington, Gray stepped into the role as the Sparks floor general, and has really improved, especially in her scoring, where she went from 5.9 off the bench in 2016, to 14.8 as a starter last season. She passes well, she shoots the 3 as well as anyone, and she has great court vision.

11. Angel McCoughtry – 6’1″ Forward, Atlanta Dream

AngelMcCoughtry

A former Rookie of the Year in 2009, McCoughtry will look to continue to lead the Atlanta Dream as a two way player who can score as well as very few others in the league can. She is a perennial MVP candidate, and she was top ten in points per game and steals per game in her most recent season in 2016. She sat out 2017 to rest, but the team made big strides last year and during this offseason. She will certainly come back to the Dream this season ready to get back to the Finals for a 4th time, and ready to battle anyone else in the league.

10. Tina Charles – 6’4″ Center, New York Liberty

TinaCharles

Tina Charles at age 29 has been one of the most consistent players during her 8 years in the WNBA. Rookie of the Year in 2010 and MVP in 2012, she continued her excellent play in 2017 as she was 3rd in points per game, and 4th in rebounds per game. Her blocking ability has steadily declined since she first arrived in the league. But her assists have improved over the years, which will need to continue as her usage percentage was 1st in the league. She scored more total points than anyone else last year, but in reality that means that the offence relies too heavily on her and her alone. She will need another star or two on her team before she breaks through to the Finals or a championship.

9. Skylar Diggins-Smith – 5’9″ Guard, Dallas Wings

SkylarDigginsSmith

Skylar Diggins-Smith is a player that continues to lead as a classic point guard, with top tens in points per game, assists per game, offensive rating, and PER last season. She heads a Dallas Wings full of young and veteran talent, and as a leader on this team, will look to get back to the playoffs as she got to play in her first playoff game just last year. She has overcome a tough rookie season to become Most Improved Player in 2014, and an ACL tear in 2015 that has seen her bounce back and grow into possibly the best point guard in the league.

8. Candace Parker – 6’4″ Forward, Los Angeles Sparks

CandaceParker

Rookie of the Year and 2 time MVP Candace Parker continued to prove why she is one of the best players in the league. She was 11th in points per game, and in the top ten in assists per game, steals per game, blocks per game, defensive rating, and PER. Like Tina Charles, she has been consistently excellent throughout her career. She has more talent around than probably anyone else in the league right now, but she works hard every game to be her best and make her teammates better. Much like the rest of the players on the list, any team would absolutely love to have Parker starting for them.

7. Breanna Stewart – 6’4 Forward, Seattle Storm

BreannaStewart

Breanna Stewart is easily one of the most exciting and exceptional players the league has had in some time. She unanimously won Rookie of the Year and was Defensive Player of the Year runner up in 2016. She continued to meet and exceed expectations in her sophomore season in 2017. She made the All-Star team and was 2nd in the league in points per game, and 6th in both blocks and rebounds per game. She has a real opportunity to continue her young partnership with Jewell Loyd, much like Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson did in Seattle before her, to create a title winning franchise in the Emerald City.

6. Jonquel Jones – 6’6″, Forward/Center, Connecticut Sun

JonquelJones

Jonquel Jones did some incredible things last season as a second year player. She won the Most Improved Player award, set three single season rebounding records, and was top ten in rebounds per game, blocks per game, 3 point shooting, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, defensive rating, and last but not least (or maybe least depending on your opinion of it) PER. Like Stewart, she is one of the best young talents in the league who has shown that she can really stack up against anyone else in the WNBA. She can shoot the 3, score in the paint, is probably already the best rebounder in the league. She has a ton of talent around her, has a great head coach in Curt Miller, and I hope she continues to play even better in 2018. I honestly debated whether or not to put her first on this list. Maybe next year!

5. Brittney Griner – 6’8″ Center, Phoenix Mercury

BrittneyGriner

Two time Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner is another really amazing talent. She was in the top ten in 6 categories last year: points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, and PER. She battle the injury bug last season, but I expect her to come back even hungrier than ever. She is, like the forwards and centers before and after her on this list, simply outstanding offensively and defensively in the paint. She commands respect, and she earns respect with every block and every post move that leads to an easy two points. Watch out for BG in 2018.

4. Elena Delle Donne – 6’5″ Guard/Forward, Washington Mystics

ElenaDelleDonne

Rookie of the Year in 2013 and MVP in 2015, Elena Delle Donne is the most versatile player in the league. At 6’5″, she can play any position on the court, and she can score from anywhere on the court as well. She was top ten last year in points per game, blocks per game, 3 point percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, and PER. Her move to the Mystics got her closer to her home state of Delaware in a system that seems to fit well so far. And though she has battled Lyme disease, and a spell of other injuries, when she is healthy she is the biggest threat offensively in the league. She was also tied for 12th in rebounds with Alyssa Thomas, which goes to show that along with her other top ten finishes, she really is the complete package. Look to see her push this Mystics team harder and further in 2018.

3. Maya Moore – 6’0″ Forward, Minnesota Lynx

MayaMoore

Maya Moore has been the best player in the league most of her career. Rookie of the Year in 2011 and MVP in 2014, she had bit of and down year, but in reality, that means she was still better than most everyone else in the league. And that’s why I also expect her to bounce back this season and as good or better than ever before. Maya Moore does it all on both ends of the floor, and like the rest of the top ten, knows how to lead a team, how to make her teammates better, and how to take over a game in a flash. Winning her 4th title with the Lynx last season, she was top ten in points per game, steals per game, 3 point percentage, offensive and defensive ratings, and PER. Crazy to think there was actually a better player on her own team last season…

2. Nneka Ogwumike, 6’2″ Forward, Los Angeles Sparks

NnekaOgwumike

What can I say about Nneka Ogwumike that hasn’t already been said? She is another player that truly excels on both ends of the floor, every single game. She was top ten in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, true shooting percentage, offensive and defensive rating, and PER. She had one of the most efficient shooting seasons in basketball history in her MVP and title winning season in 2016. At 27 she is in her prime, and she is playing along side some of the best talent in the league. She has been to back to back Finals the past two seasons, and no one will be surprised if they are back for a third time in 2018. Ogwumike has to be as motivated as ever to win more championships, and I believe she will continue to be one of the best, if not the best player in the league this next season.

1. Sylvia Fowles, 6’6″ Center, Minnesota Lynx

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I really debated with myself for a long time on who to put first on this list. Nneka and Sylvia are both just about equals in mind. They have both absolutely dominated the league the past couple of seasons. But I put Sylvia first because I believe that as hungry and Nneka is for her 2nd championship, Sylvia Fowles is just as hungry for her 3rd. She was astounding last season, in the regular season and in the playoffs, winning MVP and Finals MVP. Not unlike many of the great centers the WNBA, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, and Yolanda Griffith, Fowles uses her size and ability inside to destroy opponents on both ends of the floor. She was top ten in points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, true shooting, offensive and defensive ratings, and had the best PER out of anyone else in the league. As far as her top tens go, she was 1st in blocks per, rebounds per, defensive rating, and of course PER. She was also 1st in offensive win shares, defensive win shares, overall win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage, field goal percentage, 2 point field goal percentage, and total offensive rebounds. That is a lot of firsts in a lot of categories, and Sylvia Fowles proved that any way you look at it, she was the best player in the league, both offensively and defensively in 2017. And I am betting, even at age 32, she is ready to prove that once again in 2018.

Conclusion

So, Angel McCoughtry made the list, but Chiney, along with a host of other players, did not. Am I crazy? Was this list great, good, bad, or just plain wrong? Does Layshia Clarendon, Kayla McBride, Lindsay Whalen or anyone belong on this list instead? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know, and thanks for reading!