Mercury’s Candice Dupree Having a Career Year
All-Star forward loving Phoenix
By Ben York / @bjyork
It’s not breaking news that Candice Dupree is a fantastic basketball player. She’s a three-time All-Star, a two-time EuroLeague All-Star, former Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
But you might be surprised to know she’s having a season the likes of which the WNBA has never seen.
Quite simply, Mercury fans can’t ask much more of her. She’s 1st on the team in rebounds (7.5), 1st in field-goal percentage (66%), 2nd in free-throw percentage (90%), and 3rdin scoring (12.8 ppg); all while averaging the least amount of minutes in the Mercury starting five (26.3). Additionally, she has the league’s 9th best efficiency rating (18.2) and playing the fewest minutes of any player ranked in the top 15.
Perhaps more amazing, Dupree rarely has a specific play called for her. Part of the Mercury’s fluid offense is taking what the defense gives you. With Dupree so lethal in the post, many teams actively try to remove that scoring option and take their chances on an outside shot. Even so, Dupree finds a way to get involved in a selfless but aggressive way, doing whatever the team needs her to do night after night. She’s so humble that she really doesn’t like to talk about her stats at all; she’d much rather focus on the team as a whole.
“I think that started in college at Temple,” Dupree told SLAMonline about her unrivaled consistency. “I played for one of the best women’s basketball players ever [Dawn Staley] and she really instilled that in me. It has carried over to the WNBA and just being a constant force has been a big goal of mine.”
To be fair, the term “consistency” doesn’t really do Dupree justice. Take a look at her stats over the past four seasons in the league.
2007: 16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 45% FG’s, 32.7 mpg
2008: 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 46% FG’s, 32.9 mpg
2009: 15.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 43% FG’s, 34.9 mpg
2010: 12.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 66% FG’s, 26.3 mpg
Her 66% shooting from the floor hasn’t been seen in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain or the WNBA since Tamika Raymond shot 66% from the field in 2003 (only attempting about 5 shots a night). Dupree, however, takes about 9-10 shots every game for the Mercury. In fact, in her last four games Dupree has averaged 14.8 points on an unreal 29-of-36 shooting; that’s a blistering 81% from the floor. Before that, in her first five games in Phoenix, Dupree averaged 13.0 points on 25-of-47 (53%) shooting. In fact, Dupree didn’t even realize she was just two made-shots away from setting the WNBA record for most FG’s made in a row until a reporter approached her before the game against the Silver Stars on June 18th(Dupree finished with 14-straight field goals made, two shy of the record). She’s missed only 2 free-throws all year and never missed more than 6 FG’s in a game.
For Dupree, her amazing statistics is simply the result of a combination of hard work and resiliency.
“The only thing I think of is just to try and get a double-double every night,” said Dupree about her role on the Mercury. “I think setting that goal is best for the team and makes me a factor on both ends of the floor. We have so many weapons that I try not to force anything and take what comes to me.”
Not surprisingly, because of her work ethic, Dupree has demonstrated to be one of the most consistent and reliable players to ever play in the WNBA. Yet, she also continues to remain one of the most undervalued assets in the league. It’s difficult to figure out why, but it could be in large part due to her low-key demeanor. Dupree is a naturally quiet person, but she’s also incredibly generous and genuinely kind. At the same time, her unassuming attitude shouldn’t be mistaken for not being passionate or caring immensely about the game and her team. Dupree is as competitive a player as you’ll ever see and her sole desire is to help the team win.
“I just try to take shots that I know I can make,” Dupree said. “I think that’s why I’ve maintained a high percentage. I don’t really try to force things; I just want to do what’s best for the team and what they need me to do to best put us in a position to succeed.”
Dupree’s calming presence is a nice equalizer for the Mercury’s high-energy and passionate players such as Diana Taurasi. You’ll never see Dupree get too high or too low. Conversely, she’s just as likely to be the first to say “my bad” to a teammate if she made a mistake as she is to give a quick nod of “thanks” for a nice pass. She’s begun to find her niche in the fast-paced Mercury system and will only get better as the season progresses.
“It’s fun now that I’m more comfortable in the system,” Dupree says of playing in Phoenix. “It was more difficult than I thought it would be when I first got here but I’ve become more comfortable with it. It took me a while to adjust and to be able to sustain the pace. I’m loving it.”