ESPN’s Pelton: Mercury trade for Kahleah Copper earns a B- grade

Feb 7, 2024, 9:08 AM

Kahleah Cooper and Sophie Cunningham...

Sophie Cunningham #9 of the Phoenix Mercury collides with Kahleah Copper #2 of the Chicago Sky during the second half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on July 20, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Early grades are coming in after the Phoenix Mercury traded two players and a collection of draft capital to acquire three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper from the Chicago Sky along with Morgan Bertsch.

It’s hard to know how the trade will pan out until the group comes together on the court — Phoenix has also added Rebecca Allen and Natasha Cloud in the last week — but these early grades can give an indication of the value given up and coming back.

Here’s a look at the deal in its entirety:

Phoenix acquires:

– Kahleah Copper

– Morgan Bertsch

Chicago acquires:

– Brianna Turner

– Michaela Onyenwere

– 2024 No. 3 overall draft pick

– 2025 Chicago second-round pick (which Phoenix acquired in a deal prior to the 2023 season)

– 2026 Phoenix first-round pick

– 2026 second-round pick swap rights with Phoenix’s second-round pick

ESPN writer Kevin Pelton gave the Mercury a B- for the way they handled the deal, noting that while Copper’s addition solidifies a position of need, it comes at the price of long-term flexibility and puts the pressure on.

The wing spot next to Taurasi has been a revolving door in Phoenix. Kia Nurse was brought in to play small forward in 2021, but her ACL tear during the semifinals necessitated another trade with the Sky, for Diamond DeShields. Last winter, the Mercury swapped out DeShields for Onyenwere. Copper is a better shooter and far more accomplished as a WNBA scorer, making her a massive upgrade in that role — as Phoenix saw firsthand in the 2021 Finals.

The Mercury’s willingness to trade the No. 3 pick after the Storm already dealt away this year’s fourth selection is the latest indication teams don’t expect all of the eligible talent to declare for the 2024 draft. Still, this year’s pick should yield a strong contributor on a rookie contract. And Phoenix giving up its 2026 first-round selection all but forces the Mercury into the same position next year, trying to recruit talent to avoid sending away a lottery pick.

As a result, anything short of a trip to the WNBA semifinals this season will be a disappointing outcome for Phoenix.

Pelton gives the Sky an A- for their part in the deal, commending them for accepting a rebuild and going down the asset collection route now that their contention window has clearly closed.

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ESPN’s Pelton: Mercury trade for Kahleah Copper earns a B- grade