The Phoenix Mercury, who are just four years removed from winning their second WNBA Championship, find themselves in a very enviable position.
After an injury-plagued and frankly forgettable 2012 season during which they posted a 7-27 record, superstars Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor are expected to return from ailments.
But more importantly, the Mercury won the WNBA Draft Lottery last September — meaning they hold the first overall draft pick in one of the deepest and best drafts in league history.
“We’re super excited about it,” Mercury president and COO Amber Cox told Doug and Wolf Wednesday as part of Newsmakers Week. “There’s a lot of buzz in the WNBA and nationally with the players involved in this draft, one being Brittney Griner with Baylor, a 6-foot-8 center — she’s the dunking phenom and there’s also Skylar Diggins who’s with Notre Dame.”
So, who will the Mercury select with their pick? Cox and head coach Corey Gaines, who also visited the studio, stopped just short of making the announcement.
“We’ll say we’re looking for a player who will make a big impact in the WNBA, or let’s go all out, the world, and someone who is capable of dunking a basketball,” Gaines said. “Someone who has broken records in her conference and someone who will change the game.”
Cox was quick to chime in. “Tune in April 15th is what Corey is saying to you in other words,” she said.
Even with Diggins and Delaware’s high-scoring forward Elena Della Donne available in the upcoming draft, most believe that the Mercury would be foolish to pass up on Griner, who is a game-changer on both ends of the floor.
The Baylor senior is averaging 22.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the top-ranked team in the country. She’s also blocked 94 shots and became the NCAA’s all-time leader in that category earlier this year.
Regardless of who they take, Cox feels that Griner — along with Diggins and Delle Donne — will have a huge impact on the women’s pro game for years to come.
“Every major sport has had a tipping point,” she said. “I really think we’re on the verge of it in the WNBA with this draft class.”