New-look Mercury: Championship contenders to favorites

(AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

48 hours.

General Manager Jim Pitman and the Phoenix Mercury front office changed the landscape of the WNBA in two days.

However, his moves leading up to the last couple of days set the stage for the franchise’s league-altering acquisitions.

After kicking off the new year by waiving Megan Walker, he traded center Kia Vaughn for a 2023 third round pick, according to Rachel Gall of Winsidr.

The trade freed up about $110,000 worth of cap space.

On the same day he traded Vaughn, he re-signed a key role player in their WNBA Finals run, wing Sophie Cunningham.

“We were so close last year and you don’t get that far without good leadership,” Cunningham said. “You tasted it, but we didn’t get that ring, so that was more fuel to our fire.”

Three days later, the Mercury acquired 2021 WNBA Champion and 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields in a three-team deal with the Sky and Fever.

DeShields is a tough perimeter defender who can put the ball in the bucket, averaging 13 points and four boards per game throughout her career.

“Diamond DeShields is as dynamic an athlete as we have in our league and at just 26 years old has already been a champion, an All-Star and an All-WNBA performer,” Pitman said. “She was one of our top targets this offseason because of her ability to score and defend from the wing position and how dangerous she is in the open floor.”

Bria Hartley is headed to Indiana in the move while Chicago acquired Phoenix’s 2023 first round pick.

That brings us to Friday, February 4th.

Rachel Gall of Winsidr reported that Pitman and his team signed 2021 WNBA leading scorer, Tina Charles, for $108,000.

She put up about 23 points per game to go along with almost 10 rebounds last season.

”Tina has made it clear that she wants to win and wants to do so in Phoenix,” Pitman said. “For us, this move is about adding absolute top-end talent into our frontcourt which already features what we consider the most dominant player in the game in BG and the league’s best defender in Brianna Turner.  We expect to be able to play all three fewer minutes which should benefit us in the playoffs.”

Here’s a look at the roster as of February 5th:

G: Taurasi, Diggins-Smith, DeShields, Cunningham, Peddy, Nurse

F/C: Griner, Charles, Turner

In other words; 32 All-Star selections, 11 Olympic Gold Medals, five WNBA titles, and two MVP’s.

Quite the squad for first year head coach Vanessa Nygaard, who just left a star-studded lineup in Vegas.

“When I looked at the commitment to winning here, the resources from ownership, the partnership with the Suns, and the roster in place, I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Nygaard said. “The goal here is to win championships, and I look forward to getting this team back to the top of the WNBA mountain.”

Out of all the questions that have been answered in the last 48 hours, one thing is clear: they’re going all-in for what could potentially be Diana Taurasi’s final season.

…and it’s only February.