The Phoenix Mercury played so well in last year’s semifinal series against the Aces that they were arguably the favorites to make it to the Finals. Diana Taurasi is old-school Diana Taurasi, and Britney Greener is just as good, making Phoenix the most dangerous offense in the tournament.
The Mercury has reason to be optimistic about winning another title, but Taurasi, Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith take up a lot of cap space. Mercury has top talent, but their depth could be in question if they can’t keep Kia Nurse.
Free Agents (Type) (2021 Average Salary)
- Sophie Cunningham (unrestricted) ($58,710)
- Alanna Smith (unlimited) ($58,710)
- Kia Nurse (Limited) ($70,040)
- Sonia Petrovich (reserved)
Total average free agent salary: $187,460
Total Team Salary: $1,062,135
Cap space: $317,065
Mercury probably can’t afford the Kia Nurse. If given her $136,380, Phoenix can match, and she has to stay because she’s a restricted free agent. That would give the Mercury a solid core of Diana Taurasi, Britney Greene, Skylar Dickins-Smith, Bria Hartley and Nurse, but their remaining six players All must be minimum players. Also, I think someone will offer $140,000 to Nurse. She’s an All-Star in 2019.
Not worrying about nurses can make the Mercury more sane as they sort out the remaining roster. Brianna Turner is clearly a lot cheaper than she’s worth, and Phoenix is lucky to have at least one such player. She is a goalkeeper. After her, there’s no real lock-in, but teams have to love what Sophie Cunningham has done for them in the playoffs.
The Mercury could have kept Turner ($72,141) and Megan Walker ($70,127), the latter of which was waived and paid Shey Peddy a considerably lower amount because she was retained and would not receive any Quote. Suppose they paid Peddie $70,000. That leaves $102,607 paid to unrestricted free agent Cunningham, which should be enough. If you pay Peddie what she really deserves, close to $82,000, you have to hope Cunningham spends a little less ($90,607).
In that case, the Mercury would have enough money to keep their current three draft picks (one second-round pick and two third-round picks). They could also trade Walker for picks at positions 5 to 8. Walker is the 9th overall pick in 2020 with star offensive potential. As a junior at UConn, she ranked eighth nationally in 3-point percentage of 45.1.
With Walker being waived, Mercury could try to pay Peddie just $70,000 and Cunningham just $90,000. That would give them $82,734 in free agency. In that range, they might focus on Shavonte Zellous, Lexie Brown or Lindsay Allen. Not much of an improvement over Walker, but Walker did struggle the first two years, shooting 22 percent from beyond the arc. Maybe Phoenix thinks Brown, who shot 38.5 percent from the field in 2019, is a better option.
* All salary figures are from HerHoopStats