GM: Mercury checked off offseason goals with Tina Charles, Diamond DeShields
Winning can happen in the offseason. If the Phoenix Mercury meet their very clear and non-negotiable goal of earning the 2022 WNBA title, they can point toward wins in February.
After hiring Vanessa Nygaard as their new coach in January, Phoenix checked off two roster-improvement goals quickly and impressively.
“We were looking to add two types of players to our roster. We were looking to add an athletic wing and a stretch big,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Friday.
To begin February, the team signed 2012 league MVP and 2021 scoring leader Tina Charles as a free agent after trading for 2019 All-Star wing Diamond DeShields.
Adding to the All-Star trio of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith came at a relatively reasonable cost, especially considering Charles led the WNBA by averaging 23.4 points per game last year.
“Tina is a player whose game has continued to develop over the years. She’s been an MVP, she’s been the league’s leading scorer, she’s been the league’s leading rebounder, she shot almost 37% from the three-point line last year,” Pitman said. “At the end of the day, what Tina wants more than anything is to win a championship, and she was willing to take less money to do that.
“A lot of players — a lot of people — will talk about it’s not about the money, but at the end of the day it usually is.”
Charles joined Phoenix on a one-year, $108,000 deal, according to Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan.
It was a massive underpay considering her resume as a high-output scorer at 33 years old.
To put Tina Charles' $108k contract into perspective, here's look at every contract for 2022 with free agent signings in blue. As you can see, that's Tina way off to the right.
— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) February 4, 2022
DeShields, the No. 3 pick in 2018, brings younger legs and athleticism to complement Taurasi’s scoring, Diggins-Smith’s play-making and the more versatile frontcourt of Griner and Charles.
Phoenix dealt Bria Hartley, a first-round pick and two second-round choices in a three-team trade to acquire DeShields from the Chicago Sky. DeShields was a restricted free agent and agreed to a two-year deal with the Mercury as part of the trade.
According to HerHoopStats.com’s Richard Cohen, that contract is valued respectively at $150,000 and $154,500 over the next two seasons, which further drives home the pay that Charles potentially left on the table.
DeShields averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season, her fourth.
“She had an injury (knee/quad) that set her back for the last year or two but is back fully healthy,” Pitman said. “Probably is the most dynamic athlete in the league, someone who can help us in transition but also somone who can defend a lot of these elite wings.
“That was a piece we were missing in the Finals last year, we struggled to slow down (Chicago’s) Kahleah Copper.”
Pitman on what Nygaard brings to the table: “She combined great basketball intelligence — her Xs and Os are terrific — with her ability to create and develop relationships and communicate at a very high level about what we’re trying to do. Her goal of accountability is something we really wanted to make sure we have.
“To me as we were going through this, there is a mix of a (Suns coach) Monty Williams and a (Warriors coach) Steve Kerr type of personality. She’s very, very attune to the details of what needs to be done at the team level but she has a very self-depricating way of talking and making it seem what we’re ultimately trying to achieve is doable.”