Blockbuster Trade Changes WNBA Landscape
Pondexter to NY, Dupree to PHX, Christon to CHI.
by Ben York / @bjyork
The 2010 WNBA season is already shaping up to be one of the most interesting and publicized in league history.
First, we saw Lindsay Whalen head home to Minnesota in a deal that sent Renee Montgomery and the No. 1 overall pick to Connecticut. Now, three All-Stars have switched teams and, in doing so, have changed the dynamics of the entire league. The three-team deal sends Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Mazzante to New York, Shameka Christon and Catherine Kraayeveld to the Chicago Sky, and Candice Dupree to Phoenix.
Originally drafted by Phoenix as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 WNBA Draft from Rutgers University, Pondexter has posted career averages of 19.2 ppg and 4.1 apg. A three-time WNBA All-Star, Pondexter helped lead the Mercury to two WNBA Championships averaging 20.8 ppg and 4.6 apg in the playoffs, along with being named the 2007 WNBA Finals MVP. Last season, the 5-9 guard started all 34 regular season games and averaged 19.1 ppg and 5.0 apg. Pondexter posted 20-plus points 18 times, led the Mercury in scoring 13 times and was named Western Conference Player of the Week three times in consecutive weeks, a WNBA first. She finished the 2009 season ranked as the WNBA’s No. 4 leading scorer and No. 3 assists leader. Pondexter was also a member of the 2008 Olympic team that captured the gold medal in Beijing. Kelly Mazzante came to Phoenix as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 WNBA Dispersal Draft after originally being selected by Charlotte in the 2nd round (18th overall) of the 2004 WNBA Draft. Mazzante graduated from Penn State as the all-time leading scorer in Big Ten Conference history (male or female) and currently sports a 4.8 ppg career average.
Catherine Kraayeveld, a 6-4 forward, averaged 9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 26 minutes per game for the Liberty in 2009. Kraayeveld is a well-respected defensive presence around the league and is an accomplished 3-point shooter. Last season she shot 42 percent from 3-point range and has shot 38.7 percent throughout her five year WNBA career. Shameka Christon, a WNBA All-Star in 2009, averaged 16.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 32 minutes per game for the Liberty. At 6-1, Christon is an impressive shooter, she shot 40.2 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. The six year WNBA veteran’s all-star appearance was the first of her career.
Candice Dupree comes to Phoenix from Chicago where she led the Sky in scoring and ranked 11th in the WNBA (15.7 ppg). She ranked second in the league in total rebounds (268) while recording career highs in rebounding (7.9 rpg), three-point field goal percentage (.387) and free throw percentage (.785). The 6-2 forward tallied nine double-doubles, third-most in the league. She was named to the third All-Star game of her career (2009, 2007, 2006) and was named a starter for the Eastern Conference. Most recently, Dupree spent the ’09-10 offseason playing professionally overseas for Good Angels Kosice in Slovakia. She ranked first in all of Euroleague competition in rebounding (11.0) and third in scoring (18.9) while shooting 49.6 percent from the field in 39.1 minutes per game. She was named to the Euroleague Women All-Star Game, where she recorded 11 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in 23 minutes as a starter alongside new teammate Diana Taurasi.
What this means for each team…
Phoenix: This move essentially means they are financially free to bring back Temeka Johnson and Penny Taylor to their championship-caliber roster. Candice Dupree is a major upgrade from Le’coe Willingham at the 4 spot and provides a much needed rebounding presence for the Mercury. Diana Taurasi’s scoring output will surely increase as will Penny Taylor’s. Mercury fans will probably be a bit skeptical to part with Pondexter, but once they truly see what Dupree is capable of they may change their minds. Dupree can play any style of game and her rebounding will allow the Mercury to push the ball even more. She’s also a viable scoring threat from anywhere on the floor.
Chicago: The Sky gets a dynamic young player in Shameka Christon and depth in Catherine Kraayeveld. They’ll also receive an added defensive presence to accompany their increased shooting capabilities. The Sky maintains the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft and they’ll add another youthful, talented piece to their core. They’ll miss Candice’s versatility, but Christon is a rising star who will be invaluable to their playoff chances. This also means Sylvia Fowles will be looked at to score and rebound like never before. It will be interesting to see how the Sky meshes all of the pieces together for a playoff run.
New York: They get a proven superstar in Cappie Pondexter and a stellar shooter in Kelly Mazzante. New York fans will be sad to see Christon go but they should be equally as thrilled to welcome Cappie Pondexter. Pondexter will be the No. 1 option in New York and will step out of the shadow of Diana Taurasi. Pondexter, Powell, and McCarville give the Liberty a unique combination of power and finesse in the Eastern Conference. Many people might think they know what Cappie can do on the basketball court, but they’ll be in for a shock once they see her ability to (literally) do everything. This is where Pondexter will truly demonstrate she is the Dwyane Wade of the WNBA.