February 10, 2021
All-Star Kia Nurse headed to Phoenix
What Nurse and Megan Walker can bring to the Mercury
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Last year, the Phoenix Mercury waived all three players they took in the draft. They won’t be waiving their first-round picks for the next two years, because they won’t be using them.
Instead, the team sent those picks to the New York Liberty for All-Star wing Kia Nurse and second-year wing Megan Walker.
“Kia Nurse was our top acquisition target this offseason because of her outside shooting, aggressiveness off the dribble, size and versatility on defense, and competitiveness,” Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman said.
For the Mercury, Nurse will likely take over at the three, which was in flux last year. The team started the season with Nia Coffey at the position, but experimented with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Sophie Cunningham at the position before briefly moving to a three-guard lineup with Bria Hartley starting.
The Next’s Brendon Kleen reports that Coffey is a salary cap casualty of the deal as well.
With Coffey and Walker-Kimbrough no longer on the roster, it leaves room for the Mercury to insert another former All-Star into the starting lineup. Hartley can move back to her more natural position in the backcourt, providing relief minutes for Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith as she did in the early going in 2020.
Nurse is entering her fourth year in the league, averaging 11.6 points per game over her career. She was selected to the league’s last All-Star Game in 2019 during a season when she averaged a career-high 13.7 points and 2.3 assists per game as well as a career-high 39.3 percent accuracy from behind the 3-point line.
The former Connecticut standout was selected 10th by the Liberty in the 2018 draft and got off to a strong start as a rookie by averaging 9.1 ppg on 40.2 percent shooting. That number was dragged down by her 29.4 percent average from 3-point distance.
This marks the second straight season the Mercury have made significant additions to their roster via the trade market. Last year, they added All-Star point guard Diggins-Smith in a sign-and-trade deal with the Dallas Wings.
Walker was selected ninth by the Liberty in 2020 after deciding to leave Connecticut before her senior season. She averaged 3.3 points in 11.4 minutes per game as a rookie. If she sticks with Phoenix, she will probably find herself competing with Cunningham for back-up duties at the three.