August 20, 2022 

What Shey Peddy’s Achilles injury means for the Phoenix Mercury

'For her to go down like that, it just breaks your heart'

With 2:03 left in the third quarter, the Phoenix Mercury only trailed the Las Vegas Aces 49-44. A curl-action was set for Mercury guard Shey Peddy. What happened next was something Phoenix was already too familiar with: an injury.

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Peddy went down, clutching her lower right leg and grimacing in pain. Michelob Ultra Arena went so quiet that you could practically hear a pin drop. Teammate Reshanda Gray carried Peddy back to the locker room as Diamond DeShields, Sam Thomas and the injured Kia Nurse all looked on in disbelief.

Two days later, the team announced that Peddy had ruptured her right Achilles tendon. The 5’7 guard will not be available for the remainder of the season. It felt like that was the way the Mercury’s season had gone.

“I would not wish our season on anybody else,” Mercury forward Brianna Turner said during Friday’s media availability, referencing the team’s many injuries and personnel changes.

After Peddy’s injury, the Mercury were outscored 30-19. They went on to lose Game 1 of the best-of-three series and will look to avoid elimination on Saturday without her. After Wednesday’s game, head coach Vanessa Nygaard explained what Peddy’s injury means going forward.

“That’s our third point guard we’ve lost this season,” Nygaard said. “Shey is one of our best defensive players. She has been a true lockdown defender for us, guarding a lot of the toughest matchups. And then also just really huge on that for us on the offensive side with her threes.”

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How impactful is ‘Playoff P’?

A constant of Peddy’s game this season was her activity on the perimeter. The fourth-year pro ranked fifth in the league with 1.6 steals per game over the regular season. When the Mercury shifted to a zone defense after the All-Star break, Peddy led the way, allowing players in her area to shoot just 28.0% from the field, per Synergy Sports.

On the offensive end, Peddy recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.44 in the regular season. That was better than what point guards such as Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot and Moriah Jefferson averaged, just to name a few.

But Peddy transformed into one of the team’s top playmakers in the last weeks of the season. Phoenix was on a mission to make the playoffs even without Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi, who both missed the final four games of the regular season.

As a result, Peddy shifted her offensive game into overdrive. Through those four games, the Temple product averaged 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.9 minutes per game. She also shot 43.3% from 3-point range on 7.5 attempts per game, filling a void that Phoenix sorely needed.

Her shot making was essential for a team that thrives so much on the 3-point shot. However, it wasn’t just her 3-pointer that was falling. One of the more underrated parts of Peddy’s game is her runner. According to Synergy Sports, she averaged a WNBA-best 1.233 points per possession on floaters and shot 56.7% on runners this season.

Ahead of the playoffs, Peddy described the mentality behind her success. “I play relaxed. Obviously, with Sky [Diggins-Smith] and D [Taurasi] out, I’m forced to step up and play a bigger role,” she said. “That’s been making my shots. I’ve been practicing and just playing carefree,” Peddy said.

Support when it matters most

Peddy’s versatile skillset is undeniable. And it’s not only what she provides on the court, but also what she does off of it. After Nygaard spoke about Peddy on Wednesday, forward Sophie Cunningham chimed in, offering her support for her teammate.

“For Shey, I just don’t think a lot of people understand what she does behind the scenes. And really, what she does on the court, I don’t think she gets enough credit. She keeps our team together,” Cunningham said.

Support also roared in from across women’s basketball, including from Peddy’s former head coach in Phoenix, Sandy Brondello. The current New York Liberty head coach posted a tweet offering her support. Numerous players, from Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud to UConn star Paige Bueckers, shared their support through social media.

Cunningham also spoke about how Peddy would want her and the team to still be positive after Game 1. “She’s the life of the party,” Cunningham said, cracking a smile as she spoke. “She’s a great human … and for her to go down like that, it just breaks your heart. Because, like I said, with the season we’ve had, she’s always been a very consistent piece and has brought great energy, great vibes [to] practice and games every single day. And honestly, that’s someone you want on your team every given night.”

Written by Hayden Cilley

Hayden Cilley covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Sports Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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