May 17, 2024 

Natasha Cloud embracing role as the Mercury’s new leader

Veteran point guard strives to be the engine powering the team toward success

With a brand new coaching staff and a revamped roster, the Phoenix Mercury face a lot of uncertainty to start the 2024 WNBA season. Veterans like guard Diana Taurasi and center Brittney Griner have helped ease the transition, according to first-year head coach Nate Tibbetts, but an unlikely leader and face of the team has emerged amidst the turnover — point guard Natasha Cloud.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

“[Natasha Cloud] is freaking awesome man,” guard Sophie Cunningham said. “Her energy is [great], there’s no one like [her] … She’s fast. She knows the game. She’s actually been a great leader. I think she’s been our best leader so far just communicating on what she sees on the court, what she sees off the court and just making sure we’re all good. But at the end of the day, I just think that she has a great energy.”

Celebrate the WNBA’s 28th season!

Get started with a paid subscription to The Next, which helps support all of our writers, editors and photographers who work tirelessly to bring you this coverage. In honor of the WNBA’s 28th season, we are offering memberships for 28% off. That’s only $51.84 to get exclusive access to everything we have to offer for a year!

In just her first preseason with the Mercury, guard Natasha Cloud established herself as a leader her teammates could count on as the Mercury look to bounce back from a 9-31 record in 2023.

Cloud, the team’s first free agency signing of the 2024 period, has set the pace for the Mercury since the early stages of the offseason. She spent the first eight years of her career with the Washington Mystics before signing a new deal with Phoenix on Feb. 1.

Cloud’s addition was especially important for the Mercury’s on-court performance. After the departures of guards Moriah Jefferson and Shey Peddy in the offseason, Phoenix general manager Nick U’Ren knew upgrading the point guard position was a priority for the team. U’Ren and Tibbetts got their first choice in Cloud.

“When I took the job, [U’Ren] gave me four or five free agent names to look at — point guards. I watched three clips of [Cloud] and I was like, ‘She’s the one,’” Tibbetts said. “We’re thankful that she’s here. … When I think about a point guard, or me coming into a new situation, and who I would want to lead the team from a competitive spirit and kind of like an old school pass-first point guard, it would be her, and I told her that I’m so thankful and excited that she is here with not only me, but just for us.”

With a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.65, Cloud’s presence as a floor general should help the Mercury take better care of the ball, improving upon their league-worst 644 turnovers in 2023. Cloud is also a stalwart defender with two WNBA All-Defensive nods to her name.

In Phoenix’s first game of the season, Cloud scored 14 points with eight rebounds and seven assists. Although the Mercury fell to the defending champions Las Vegas Aces, the Mercury kept pace before losing 89-80. Cloud played the most of any Mercury player in the tight contest.

Her impact on the floor isn’t just limited to her physical abilities. According to coaches and teammates, Cloud brings a unique energy to the organization in practice and in games that has helped set the tone for Tibbetts and his tenure. 

“We are thrilled to have Natasha with us,” U’Ren said. “The energy she brings when she walks in the room and walks into the gym is quite literally palpable, like she lifts the entire gym up with her energy. And then you obviously see it on the floor the pace, the force she plays with. … So happy to be playing with her instead of against her, but I think she is the ultimate player in this league that makes others better and raises the barometer, raises the tide of the force and physicality and the pace and the energy with which we play.”

As the point guard, Cloud leads vocally, directing and building up her teammates in on-court huddles and player-to-player moments. The energy that she displays while challenging opposing players in games is also used to uplift the team.

Want even more women’s sports in your inbox?

Subscribe now to our sister publication The IX and receive our independent women’s sports newsletter six days a week. Learn more about your favorite athletes and teams around the world competing in soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, hockey and gymnastics from our incredible team of writers.

Readers of The Next now save 50% on their subscription to The IX.

For the last decade, the Mercury’s image has been spearheaded internally and externally by Taurasi and Griner. But now a new face signifies just how seismic the changes within the organization are this season, and the hope for them is that — with the infusion of Cloud’s energy on the court and in the locker room — the Mercury will be able to return to championship caliber.

“[I] feel like [leadership is] what my job is as the point guard,” Cloud said. “I’m an extension of the coach in a lot of ways on the floor. And for me personally, that’s the biggest thing in this next chapter of my career that I want to prove to myself is I am the leader that I think I am. I can lead on the court. I believe that I’m the engine behind the team. I’m going to try to be that in every single way.”

Written by Tia Reid

Tia Reid covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. Her other work has also appeared on, College Gym News, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS and the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. Tia is a senior at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.