February 12, 2023 

How the Diamond DeShields trade impacts the Phoenix Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury had to make a move to clear cap space this offseason. Where does this trade leave them?

Diamond DeShields is no longer a member of the Phoenix Mercury. On Saturday, she was dealt to the Dallas Wings in a four-team trade that brought 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere from the New York Liberty to Phoenix.

DeShields was a member of Chicago’s 2021 championship team that defeated the Mercury in four games in the WNBA Finals. She then came to Phoenix as part of a five-team trade ahead of the 2022 season.

In 2022, the 6’1 guard averaged 13.1 points, 1.0 steals, and a career-high 0.5 blocks in 30 games played. However, she shot a career-worst 38.8% from the field.

Phoenix had to clear some cap this offseason, and unloading DeShields’ contract in favor of Onyenwere’s makes sense financially. Prior to the DeShields move, the Mercury had four players set to affect the cap in 2023. Skylar Diggins-Smith will make $234,350, Sophie Cunningham will make $150,000, Brianna Turner will make $150,000, and DeShields was set to make $154,500.

If Phoenix had kept DeShields, re-signed Brittney Griner to the supermax contract of $234,936, and re-signed Diana Taurasi to a deal worth the $228,094 she made last season, the team would have had $311,320 to spread out between five remaining players. That isn’t enough room, though, to pay them each even the league minimum salary of $62,285.

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Now with Onyenwere, who is set to make $75,407 in 2023, Phoenix can spend $84,624, about $10,000 more than the veteran minimum, per remaining player if the team opts to carry 11 instead of 12 players this season. This would be assuming Taurasi and Griner sign for the numbers previously stated. Higher-caliber free agents and more flexibility in future trades are now a possibility for the Mercury.

As for how Onyenwere fits with Phoenix, she had a slight sophomore slump as her numbers dipped across the board. Her scoring dipped from 8.6 points per game in 2021 to 4.7 last season. She played nearly nine fewer minutes per game, while her field goal percentage dipped from 40.1% down to 37.7%. She does bring some depth at the forward position. Turner was the only forward on the Mercury roster, so Onyenwere should be able to provide at least decent minutes as a backup.

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Losing DeShields is losing significant scoring from a season ago but if restricted free agent guard Shey Peddy does indeed make a miraculous return for the start of the season from an August ruptured Achilles, her 9.9 points per game last season is not far off from DeShields’ 13.1. Peddy is coming off a career year in which she shot 41.8% from the field and 32.9% from 3-point range. Both numbers were much higher than what DeShields shot. If re-signed, Peddy should be able to moderately replace what DeShields brought to the table while costing less.

Looking to the future, Phoenix also received a 2024 third-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick in the trade by way of the Chicago Sky. Additionally, the Mercury sent 2025 first-round pick swap rights to New York. This means the Liberty can swap their pick for Phoenix’s if the Mercury’s is higher in 2025.

Written by Jesse Morrison

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