February 20, 2023
Taurasi and Griner return to Phoenix Mercury
What each star resigning at surprisingly different numbers means for Phoenix
Taurasi, who will be 41 in June, re-signed on a multi-year deal, the Mercury announced Saturday. HerHoopStats reports that Taurasi signed a two-year contract for the supermax of $234,936 in 2023 and the same number next season, which is slightly below the 2024 supermax of $241,984.
This season will be her 19th in the WNBA, all of which have been with Phoenix.
“Diana Taurasi belongs in a Mercury uniform, and we are grateful for the continued faith she demonstrates in our organization by returning year after year,” said Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman in a release. “The way she prepares her body, how much she cares about winning, and how much she cares about our franchise—on and off the court—are just a few of the things that make her a transcendent athlete and quite literally the greatest of all time. We look forward to more accolades, more historic moments, and more wins.”
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One may wonder why Taurasi, given her advanced age, is coming back. She has already won three WNBA titles, an MVP and has made 10 all-star games. Taurasi returning will set her up to become the first WNBA player to hit 10,000 points this season, as she currently sits at 9,693.
“I guess I’ll be happy if I get to 10,000,” said Taurasi after reaching 9,000 points. “That’s when I’ll really be happy. Celebrate, I might even throw myself a party. For 9,000, I just feel like there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Taurasi can hit the 10,000-point mark by averaging just 7.7 points per game if she plays in all 40 games this season. Given that she averaged 16.7 PPG in her age 40 season in 2022, she should reach the 10,000-point mark relatively early in the season.
Perhaps the only way she does not reach the milestone this season is if she gets hurt. She has only played in 72 out of a possible 124 games over the past three seasons.
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Griner, who is returning to the WNBA after about 10 months in Russian detainment deemed wrongful, has officially re-signed with the Mercury, the team announced Tuesday. HerHoopStats reports Griner is signing a one-year deal worth $165,100.
“It’s a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023,” said Mercury general manager Jim Pitman in a release. “We missed BG every day that she was gone and, while basketball was not our primary concern, her presence on the floor, in our locker room, around our organization, and within our community was greatly missed. We will continue to use the resources of our organization to support her, on and off the floor, and we are thrilled for her that she gets to return to basketball, which she loves so dearly. This is a special signing and today is a special day for all of us.”
The team’s president, Vince Kozar, was also quoted in the release on the re-signing of Griner.
“I do not think any of us will forget where we were on Dec. 8 when we heard BG was coming home or on Dec. 15 when she announced she intended not only to play basketball in 2023 but that it would be for the Mercury,” Kozar said. “And I know none of us will ever forget what it will feel like to welcome her back onto her home floor on May 21. To know BG is to love and appreciate BG, and we can’t wait to show her that in person with thousands and thousands of her biggest supporters exactly three months from today at our Welcome Home Opener.”
Griner’s contract is surprising as she was eligible for the supermax contract, which she was previously making. Instead, she will be the third-highest-paid player on the team behind Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith ($234,350). but closer in salary to Brianna Turner and Sophie Cunningham ($150,000 each).
With Griner, it will be interesting to see what the 2023 season is like for her. It remains to be seen how much she will be made available to the media, if she will travel separately from her teammates due to security concerns and what type of player she will be. She did spend a long time in less than ideal conditions.
The two deals put the Mercury at six players with guaranteed deals for the upcoming season, in addition to four players on training camp deals. Taurasi and Griner join Diggins-Smith, Cunningham, Turner and Moriah Jefferson as players with guaranteed deals for 2023. Michaela Onyenwere is on an unprotected deal at slightly above the veteran’s minimum ($75,407) entering her third season in the WNBA. Assuming Shey Peddy, who was re-signed and is coming off an August ruptured Achilles, signed for the qualifying offer of $74,305, the team would be at 1,221,598 in guaranteed contracts for 2023.
The salary cap for the 2023 WNBA season is $1,420,500, so assuming Peddy’s deal is for the number previously stated, the Mercury have $198,002 left to spend on three or four players. The WNBA requires teams to keep at least 11 players but teams can also keep 12. If the team keeps two players on the minimum for players with two or fewer years of experience ($62,285) and one player on the $74,305 veterans minimum, Phoenix would be over the cap by $873.
One can assume the team will go with three young players to complete the roster. If Megan Gustafson and Sydney Wiese, both with the team on training camp deals, were to make the team, they would make $74,305 each. Jennie Simms and Sam Thomas, both signed to training camp deals, would each make $62,285 if they make the team. With where things stand right now, it seems as though the team will keep Simms and Thomas and sign one other player to a $62,285 deal.
There is one way the Mercury could keep Gustafson or Wiese or sign another player for the veteran minimum. Diggins-Smith announced that she was pregnant in October. If she is unable to play, the team can replace her with a player on a minimum salary.
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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.