Brondello: Retaining Taurasi, adding Nurse key to Mercury’s 2021 success
Heading into the offseason, the Phoenix Mercury had two objectives: Re-sign Diana Taurasi and surround their playmakers with shooters.
General manager Jim Pitman and head coach Sandy Brondello wasted no time getting a deal done with Taurasi, giving the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer a new two-year deal.
“The most important thing was re-signing Diana. … She’s coming off an amazing season and amazing career,” Brondello told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “When we looked at last season we gained a lot of chemistry in that second half and we want to continue to build on that.”
Taurasi enters her 17th WNBA season averaging 19.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 31 minutes per game. She’s shooting 43.2% from the field and 36.7% from deep.
With Taurasi locked in for two more seasons, Pitman and Brondello shifted their focus to adding more shooters to the roster. It didn’t take long for the Mercury to make a splash, acquiring point guard Kia Nurse from the New York Liberty.
Nurse, the 10th overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, has averaged 11.6 points per game over the entirety of her career. She’s a 36.1% shooter from the field.
From the start of free agency, adding Nurse to the mix was a priority.
“We needed more shooters around our playmakers,” Brondello said. “So we targeted Kia early and we’re very happy things worked out.”
Nurse’s ability to play fast made her an ideal trade target this offseason, as Brondello noted the Mercury’s fast pace of play will put Nurse in positions to excel.
“She should be the starter, she’s an amazing player and I just think her skillset will really complement the team that we’ve put together,” Brondello said. “She loves to run in transition and we want to push the pace which we did last year in the bubble. She’s a great shooter … we’ll put her in positions that will highlight her skillset.”
While Nurse’s abilities on the offensive end make her a quality addition by itself, she also adds a tough defensive mentality that should aid a Mercury squad that allowed the sixth most points per game last season.
“She’s a tough-minded defender and we need that,” Brondello said. “We can get better at defense and bringing those players in that have that mentality is going to help us.”