The WNBA has been in a frenzy since players could negotiate contracts with teams. Players were able to officially sign contracts on Feb. 1., beginning the new league year. There has already been plenty of movement, with many big names switching uniforms. Would Diana Taurasi, one of the best players in league history, leave the Phoenix Mercury?
The Mercury has a solid team that has the potential to make a deep postseason run. However, losing Taurasi would drastically affect those chances. Being the face of their franchise and the WNBA, the Mercury made sure to keep their star veteran.
Diana Taurasi signs multi-year deal with Phoenix
Diana Taurasi is staying put in Phoenix She and the team have agreed to a multi-year deal, according to ESPN. According to Rachel Galligan of Winsidr, it is a two year supermax deal with $221,450 in the first year and $228,094 in the second. Getting this deal done keeps the former MVP with the team that raised her as a WNBA player.
The Mercury drafted Taurasi in 2004 with the No. 1 overall pick. Sixteen seasons in, Phoenix has won three WNBA titles with Taurasi. They’ve become one of the most recognizable franchises in the league. It also helps when they have the league’s biggest star. Taurasi and the Mercury’s relationship is deeper than basketball, and they are happy to have Taurasi as long as she wants to play.
“Diana has given her entire career to our organization and community, and we don’t take for granted her unrivaled impact on basketball in the Valley. Her commitment to getting back on the court last year, and the level of play we saw from her in the (2020) Wubble, make us confident she has more All-WNBA days ahead of her,” said general manager Jim Pitman in a statement per ESPN.
“As I’ve said before, as long as Diana wants to play in the WNBA, we want her in a Mercury uniform. She is the heart of our franchise, the first face on our Mount Rushmore, the best winner and competitor in the women’s game. The trajectory of our organization changed the day we drafted her [in 2004], and we are excited she will be here into the future,” Pitman said.
Diana Taurasi can achieve a WNBA first with new contract
Diana Taurasi re-signing with the Mercury keeps the best scorer in WNBA history on the floor. Her 8,931 points are the most ever in league history. She is also the league’s all-time leader in field goals (2,821), 3-pointers (1,164), and free throws (2,125). She will be at least 40-years old when her new contract expires with Phoenix.
If she plays the way she normally does, she could reach 10,000 career points. She would be the first player in WNBA history to score 10,000 career points. That would be quite the accomplishment for one of the game’s elite scorers. Taurasi needs to score at least 535 points in the next two seasons to reach that number. She scored 356 points last year in the shortened WNBA season, so it is feasible for Taurasi to hit that milestone.
“I’m not stopping; I don’t feel like I should stop right now. “Who knows? In six months, it could be a different story. But right now, people ask me what I want to do after basketball. … I’m doing basketball right now,” said Taurasi per ESPN in December.
The two-time MVP’s play should make her feel confident about her chances of getting to 10,000 points. She averaged 18.7 points in 19 games, fifth-most in the WNBA during 2020. She added 4.5 assists and 4.2 boards to her stat line. Diana Taurasi not ready to call it a career just yet.
The Phoenix Mercury are primed for a playoff run
If the Mercury weren’t able to sign Taurasi to a new contract, it would’ve been a significant loss for the team. With Phoenix keeping their longtime guard, it puts them in a position to advance deep in the playoffs. Last season, the team finished 12-9 but were bounced in the second round of the postseason.
Much of the core players that were on last year’s Mercury team are returning. The three big names being Diana Taurasi, Skylar-Diggins Smith, and Brittney Griner. Phoenix’s trifecta of All-Stars brings a threat offensively and defensively at every level of the floor. Last year, players coming in and out of the bubble negatively affected the team’s cohesion and chemistry. After a year, Phoenix should be more accustomed to their teammates.
Bria Hartley is another solid piece, putting up 14 points per game last season. The Mercury are tight on cap space, so they will have to pick and chose which players they want to keep. If they can work out the cap space, their team would be one of the best in the league. Their big three and bench depth should cause headaches for opposing teams.
The WNBA’s greatest player is staying where she’s been her entire career. Diana Taurasi still has some juice left, and she’s ready to earn her fourth championship with the Mercury. If she can keep up her exceptional scoring efforts, she can reach that prestigious 10,000 point milestone, which would cement her legacy as the greatest ever.
Stats courtesy of the Official WNBA Website