Transcendence only comes around maybe once a decade and if you are lucky enough to be around for a truly talented generation of basketball maybe 2-3 times at the most. There are very few players or personalities that can stand-up above the game and look down on it as their playground.
Nine years ago Diana Taurasi stepped onto a WNBA court and immediately became one of the best players in the league winning MVP trophies, League Championships, and creating a legend.
Other great players have come into the league since then, but none with the star power, magnitude, and appeal of the latest No. 1 Overall pick; Brittney Griner. She has the spotlight squarely on her as she transitions from being a star at the University of Baylor to one of the most successful WNBA franchises in the past 10 years.
The pairing of Taurasi and Griner has the potential to create a new level of transcendence that has not been seen in the WNBA.
However, individual transcendence is not what the Mercury are trying to accomplish with this current group. They have the potential as a unit to be a transcendent team with the pieces in place. Last year they took Samantha Prahalis with the No. 6 overall pick and she turned out to be one of the better overall players in the entire draft class. Her emergence as a point guard is good sign for the future with her ability to make plays for others and score the ball.
She teamed up with DeWanna Bonner to form a one-two-punch that was not successful in terms of wins and losses, but was effective in the way they played together.
Bonner became a star in her own right last year controlling the offense with Sammy on the perimeter. Those two were the primary offensive weapons last season and will shift into lesser roles for the better of the team. Sammy is better suited as a play-maker with her vision and play-making ability. With the ball in her hands she will be a highlight reel in the pick-and-roll with her new 6-8 above the rim new toy, Griner.
There is no doubt that Taurasi and Griner will be the stars with Bonner and Sammy as secondary play-makers to take some of the pressure off.
Having glue around substance is essential to becoming an elite team. Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree will be the glue with their ability to score off the ball, rebound, and do all the little things on the court. Taylor has been around for a while and is coming off of injury so easing her in without the expectation of 20 points a night would be an ideal situation.
Head Coach (and General Manager) Corey Gaines did a quality job rounding out the rest of the roster with role players that know how to play a specific role.
Briana Gilbreath (defender/shooter), Krystal Thomas (rebounder/paint clogger), Alexis Hornbuckle (perimeter defender), Charde Houston (perimeter scoring), and Lynetta Kizer (floor spacing) all have a defined role that they can excel in no matter the distribution of minutes. The bench is very versatile, providing toughness, defense, shooting, and basketball factors that the starters may not exude.
This is more than a one trick pony show or a two trick pony show with the depth and flexibility they have compiled.
With this new-found depth of stars the new task for Coach Gaines will be balancing the minutes and massaging ego's to help this team reach its true potential.
He has pressure on him to make sure the team is organized, but also has to stay out of the way of this team's potential greatness. That pressure was on the Minnesota Lynx last season which led to Head Coach Cheryl Reeve playing her starters to the bone causing the team to fall just short of their true potential. That is a cautionary tale for Coach Gaines and the entire Phoenix Mercury this season.
Potential can change with the snap of a finger or the turn of an ankle, that is how sudden a fortune can change in the world of professional athletics. That is preaching to the choir to Mercury fans as misfortune took away the potential of the 2012 WNBA season, which is now nothing but a distant memory.
Just as quick as misfortune can strike, it can change for the positive.
Numbers Do Not Lie
Last season the Mercury were without 48.3 points per game from Taurasi and Taylor due to their injuries as well as 8.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 126 made three pointers.
They will be a welcome addition to the roster as well as with Dupree who missed 19 games due to injury.
Chasing Team History
Over the 16 year history of the team the best record they have mustered a 23-11 mark twice. They have won the WNBA Championship twice in that time, but this year they have a considerable opportunity to win a franchise record amount of games and could chase league history...
1. 27-3 Houston Comets 1998 (90%)
2/3. 28-4 LA Sparks 2000, 2001 (87.5%)
4. 28-6 Seattle Storm 2010 (82.3%)
Where will the Mercury finish?