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The Phoenix Mercury are currently (7-7) and have had an up and down start to the 2019 season but find themselves in the perfect position as they work their All-World star Diana Taurasi back into the lineup.
Taurasi who is considered the greatest women’s basketball player of all-time by many fans, players and analysts, has only played in one game so far this season. Taurasi was out due to a back injury. The Mercury guard averaged 21 points and five assists per game last season.
How have the Mercury been able to stay afloat this year without the production of Taurasi?
There are quite a few things you can point too.
All-Star forward DeWanna Bonner led the league in scoring for a significant portion of the season, guard Leilani Mitchell has shot the ball very efficiently this season, shooting 41.8% from behind the 3-point line.
Defensive Player of the Year candidate Briann January has been playing great perimeter defense this season. Rookie Sophie Cunningham is stepping up and becoming an important part of the rotation.
All those factors have been an essential part of the Mercury’s success but all of those things would be for not without the dominance of Brittney Griner.
Griner has been a dominate force in women’s basketball for quite a while now, dating back to her time at Baylor. At 6’9′, she has been an excellent rim protector as expected with over 600 blocks during her WNBA career.
The Baylor sensation is not just a shot blocker, she moves very well on the perimeter and can switch onto guards and hold her on, as well as hedge on a screen and get back to the paint with no problems.
As well as Griner plays on the defensive end, she is just as impressive on the offensive end. For her career, Griner averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game on 56% shooting from the floor.
This season, Griner’s dominance has taken a step forward as she leads the league in scorer amongst qualified players with 19.3 points per game on 52% shooting from the floor. The Mercury center is also averaging 2.2 blocks per game, third amongst qualified players.
Griner had a five-game streak from June 28th to July 10th where she made at least 10 field goals in each game. She has planted herself firmly in the Most Valuable Player race this season and her position should improve as the Mercury’s record improves.
Once Taurasi gets back into her normal production, it will help Griner become more dominant as she sees less double-teams and gets more easy buckets from the attention Taurasi draws.
WNBA fans should definitely look out for the MVP candidate’s performance for the rest of the season. She is on pace to have an historic season on both ends of the court. Griner could win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.