12 Days, 12 Previews: Phoenix Mercury
Five keys to a successful season.
The WNBA’s 15th season begins June 3rd and SLAMonline is counting down the days with in-depth previews of all twelve teams.
Prior to the start of each WNBA season (and NBA season for that matter), every writer and blogger in the country compiles extensive (by “extensive” I mean “wordy,” and by “wordy” I mean “tired”) previews analyzing the upcoming year, team by team. It’s just a fact of life. Almost as certain as death and taxes.
The problem, however, is they all look, feel, and say the same exact thing every year (copy and paste). You, the reader, deserves far better. Thus, we’re going through each team discussing five specific things they’ll need for their 2011 campaign to be considered a success.
More importantly, we want this to be interactive – be sure to post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Five Keys to the Season: Phoenix Mercury
By Ben York / @bjyork
Obviously, their bread and butter will be putting the ball through the basket an insane amount of times each game, but they finally have the personnel to match-up against virtually all teams from a defensive standpoint.
Throughout training camp, coach Corey Gaines has been actively working with the team on the defensive end of the floor more than ever. He started with the basics – rotations, weak-side help, and when/when not to switch.
Phoenix may not be the Mystics or the Fever, but their defense will vastly improve.
4. Marie Ferdinand-Harris: In my humble opinion, the biggest off-season acquisition for the Mercury was Marie Ferdinand-Harris. She fits into the Mercury’s system perfectly on both ends of the floor and is an excellent option on the break or in transition.
Furthermore, she is a selfless player who wants to win. If Phoenix needs her to step up her scoring output, she will. If they need her to be more active on the defensive end of the floor, she’ll do that too.
Ferdinand-Harris is a type of player the Mercury have been sorely missing in terms of depth at the guard position.
3. Chemistry: The Mercury had the entire team available for a full training camp; this is something of a luxury for Phoenix and a huge factor why I believe they’ll get off to a fast start in 2011.
We finally saw Candice Dupree and the rest of the squad feel comfortable with each other towards the latter half of 2010. With Kara Braxton, Dupree, Ferdinand-Harris, Penny Taylor, and Diana Taurasi all arriving days before training camp started, the Mercury have already generated more trust within each other and a better feel for everyone’s game.
2. Versatility: Make no mistake about it, this is the most deep and versatile Mercury team that Phoenix has had over the past five years. They are bigger, stronger, and more dangerous in the paint and along the perimeter.
Ultimately, their Achilles heal has been getting defensive stops at the right moment, especially in crunch time. The size of Braxton, Nakia Sanford, and Olayinka Sanni will help tremendously in the frontcourt.
It should be worth noting that Nakia Sanford had some success defending Lauren Jackson when she was a member of the Mystics in 2010. In two games vs. the Mystics, Jackson tallied 8-24 FG’s, 2-10 3PT FG’s, 28 total points, and 9 total rebounds. Nakia Sanford played a total of 34 minutes for Washington in those two games.
1. Diana and Penny: Healthy and rested. Motivated. This probably says it best.
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