June 14, 2022 

Daily Briefing — June 14, 2022: Let’s check in with the Phoenix Mercury

GOAT? Or goat?

It’s Tuesday. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the daily Watch List. Day 32 of the WNBA season is here, headlined by a rematch between Phoenix and Washington. And not only did their Sunday thriller go to overtime, but this time around, Mystics big Elena Delle Donne is probable to play! What fun.

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This gives us a wonderful opportunity to check in with the Mercury. When we last visited our friends in the desert, they were receiving an uncompetitive 12-point defeat from Las Vegas, and getting into a midgame fight. That loss dropped Phoenix to 2-2, but both those wins were over a Storm team without Breanna Stewart (or Mercedes Russell or Epiphanny Prince). And those would be the team’s lone wins until last week; the Mercury lost seven-straight games, including a 27-point beatdown from Atlanta that is certainly the worst loss a team at near-full health has taken this season. At that point, superstar guards Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi were playing well below expectations, star free agent Tina Charles was severely underwhelming, and other-prized-free-agent-acquisition Diamond DeShields was rivaling Taurasi for the least-valuable player in the league.

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But since then, Phoenix has won three straight games! It’s figured something out! … right?

Possibly, but there’s certainly no reason to buy stock just yet. For one, the Mercury have beaten the Sparks, the Dream, and a Delle Donne-less Mystics — the former two have recently looked like lottery contenders, while the latter is a perfectly average squad. There are reasons for optimism, to be clear. But still, none of them rhyme with Bliana Kaurasi or Mina Garles. Diggins-Smith has been incredible over this mini-winning streak, Diamond DeShields has been efficient while vacating the spotlight, and Shey Peddy has returned and continued to shoot well while being a feisty defender.

Diggins-Smith, DeShields, Peddy, and Brianna Turner playing this well is the outline of a good team. But right now, Taurasi and Charles are weighing down the ship; and while Charles’ floor game has shone over this little span and her shot will likely positively regress, god forbid Taurasi stops getting her superstar calls — they’re the only thing keeping her from one of the worst seasons in league history, at least statistically. (At least.)

To that point, let’s see what the stats have to say about Phoenix’s star quartet:

(Source: pbpstats)

Yep, that tracks. Not good, folks.

But first, read:

Watch List, Tuesday, June 14

(All times in Eastern, Game Of The Day in bold)

Phoenix @ Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN

Seattle @ Minnesota, 9 p.m, ESPN (Join us at Playback and watch with our staff!)

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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