February 1, 2024
How the Natasha Cloud signing changes Phoenix Mercury’s trajectory
A new floor general, and a possible harbinger of bigger things to come
The Phoenix Mercury made a splash on Thursday, signing longtime WNBA guard Natasha Cloud to a contract.
The Next’s Howard Megdal reports that the deal is a two-year, protected deal for $200,000 each year. 2024 will be the first time in the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s WNBA career that she will suit up for a WNBA team other than the Washington Mystics. Cloud has spent her entire eight-year career in D.C.
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“I’m hyped to be coming to the Valley, and be part of building back the Mercury’s dynasty,” said Cloud in a Mercury press release. “D.C. has been my home for nine years and leaving the fans and city isn’t easy, but I’m excited to be part of an organization that values the person and player that I am. I can’t wait to get to Phoenix and get to work with my teammates.”
Cloud’s time in D.C. saw her help lead the Mystics to back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances in 2018 and 2019, winning a ring in 2019. She was named to the WNBA All-Defensive team in 2019 and 2022. Defense was a crucial area for a Phoenix to address this offseason as it was tied for ninth in points allowed per game last season and was last in point differential.
Cloud is one of the league’s top distributors as she was No. 5 in the WNBA in assists per game at 6.2. The Mercury’s leader last season was Sug Sutton, who averaged 4.8.
“Natasha is an elite playmaker, one of the best defenders in the league and is coming off a career year as a scorer,” Phoenix general manager Nick U’Ren said in the press release. “The tenacity and energy Natasha plays with, on both ends of the court, will help make our team more dynamic, versatile and competitive.”
There are plenty of synergy points for Cloud in her new home. Cloud is reunited with longtime teammate Kristi Toliver, who joined new Mercury head coach Nate Tibbetts’ coaching staff this offseason. Also, Phoenix was decimated by injuries in 2023 and Cloud has missed just 10 games combined over the last three seasons.
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In a vacuum, there are some reasons for concern. The Mercury are paying $200,000 per year to a player who last shot over 40% from the field in 2018 and has been sub-30% from 3-point range in two of the last three seasons. There are also two point guards on the team already. Moriah Jefferson is signed through the end of 2024 and will make $141,500 this season. The Mercury also signed Sutton, who had a reserved player designation allowing her to sign before Feb. 1, to her qualifying offer.
Jefferson, however, is a career 39.8 percent shooter from deep, allowing for sets in which Cloud and Jefferson take turns off the ball, while Sutton can serve as a capable backup to Cloud. There is another option, though: this could be just the beginning of a larger set of moves in Phoenix, with interest from the team in everyone from Elena Delle Donne, still under contract in Washington, to free agents like DeWanna Bonner, the former longtime member of the Mercury.
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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.