February 13, 2023 

What the Moriah Jefferson signing means for the Phoenix Mercury

Moriah Jefferson brings shooting prowess and passing ability to a team in need of a point guard

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“We are very excited to welcome a free agent of Moriah’s caliber to the Mercury,” said Mercury general manager Jim Pitman. “She is coming off a career year where she demonstrated that she’s a shooter, scorer and creator for both herself and teammates. Adding a ballhandler with youth and versatility was a priority for us this offseason and we’re looking forward to the impact she will provide in her role.”

Jefferson, who will be 29 next month, has appeared in six WNBA seasons and had her best season since her rookie year in 2016, last season in 31 games played between the Dallas Wings and Minnesota Lynx.

Jefferson was money from deep a season ago. She shot 47.4% from 3-point range, good for second in the WNBA. She was also No. 10 in assists per game at 4.7 and her 10.4 points per game is not too shabby.

Jefferson and Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham should be a lethal combination from downtown in 2023. Cunningham was No. 12 in the league in 3-point percentage at 40% in 2022.

The Jefferson signing does raise questions about the future of Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. Diggins-Smith missed the 2022 playoffs and the last four games of the regular season because of personal reasons. This was following an emotional press conference after her teammate Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian Prison.

Diggins-Smith also had a few moments prior to missing the games down the stretch last season where it seemed like she was having friction with the organization. The 2022 all-star had to be separated from teammate Diana Taurasi on the bench in a game due to a disagreement and quote tweeted a video of her coach Vanessa Nygaard saying, “it will not be an all-star game because Diana Taurasi’s not playing” with a clown emoji.

Diggins-Smith did announce that she was pregnant in October of 2022, which means if she does play in 2023, she would return later in the season. The Jefferson signing could be to replace Diggins-Smith if the organization decides to move on from her, or it could be to fill time until Diggins-Smith returns from her pregnancy.

No matter what happens with Diggins-Smith, bringing in Jefferson is a boost for Phoenix. Assuming Taurasi and Griner, who was released in December in a prisoner swap, are back with the team as they have stated they would like to be, Phoenix will have a potent opening-game starting lineup. The projected starting lineup would be Jefferson, Taurasi, Cunningham, Griner and forward Brianna Turner.

Written by Jesse Morrison

Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.

2 Comments

  1. Dillon 77 on February 14, 2023 at 8:14 am

    Can we put this trade in perspective?
    – Skylar Diggins-Smith was the 4th leading scorer in the league last year at 19.7 ppg, as well as being Phoenix’s floor leader. She was also chosen to be on the U.S.A. National Team.
    – Moriah Jefferson seems to have finally come back and gotten an opportunity to demonstrate the skills most of us remember she had at UConn. That said, Cheryl Reeve, Coach and GM of the Minnesota Lynx, chose to re-sign late-season addition Lindsay Allen at point guard. There could be other factors at play, but worth keeping in mind.
    – To me, this is an insurance policy if Diggins-Smith comes back late (due to pregnancy) or not at all (due to her issues with management, DT). However, Phoenix has had ample opportunity to trade her and has not done so at this point.

    So, good signing, but not the one that will put the Mercury on a significantly higher level. (That would be Griner coming back strong…)

    • Dillon 77 on February 14, 2023 at 8:15 am

      Let’s put this “signing” (not trade) in perspective! 😉

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