2017 WNBA preview: Extreme Makeover, Phoenix edition

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 7: Alexis Prince
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 7: Alexis Prince /
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Experience is not lacking with most of the Mercury’s acquisitions. In January, Phoenix traded Isabelle Harrison and their 2017 first-round pick for Danielle Robinson, the speedy point guard from San Antonio. Robinson spent five years with the Stars, but an Achilles injury suffered overseas sidelined her last year. The 28-year-old is appreciative of what she achieved in San Antonio, but felt it was time for a change in her career.

SEATTLE, WA – MAY 3: Danielle Robinson
SEATTLE, WA – MAY 3: Danielle Robinson /

Up to this point, Robinson hasn’t been explosive in terms of scoring or efficiency, but her value lies in distribution. In 2013, she led the league in assists per game, and has never fallen below 10th in that category. Free throws are another specialty, with Robinson hitting above 90 percent from the line in three of her five seasons so far. She laughs when her speed is mentioned in conversation, but she beams at the benefits that could bring for Phoenix.

“Along with the speed comes the penetration. That’s always a plus, just being able to get in there and either dump it down to (Griner) and our post players or kick it out to (Taurasi) and the shooters. Having people help and collapse is really going to open up the floor even more,” Robinson told The Summitt.

In her San Antonio days, Robinson began as understudy to Becky Hammon. With several years of notes to draw from, Robinson is ready for the responsibilities coming her way at Phoenix.

“Having Becky there was huge and she taught me how to be a pro and how to run a team, and I think that’s going to carry over,” she said.

Robinson has at least one fan on her new team: Camille Little. The 6’2″ forward was traded from Connecticut to Phoenix as part of a three-team deal that also included Indiana. Although she has a championship to her credit as part of the vaunted 2010 Seattle team, Little hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2013. She feels that drought could end with the Mercury.

“Getting towards the end of my career, I would love to get another championship under my belt and I think this is one of the teams that will definitely be competing for one,” she said.

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 8: Camille Little
PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 8: Camille Little /

Entering her 11th season, Little has quietly constructed a solid resumé. Her appearances on league leader boards are slim, but her dependability is almost unrivaled, missing only five games throughout her career.

Statistically, Little is hoping for a more productive outing in 2017. Last year with Connecticut, she averaged 7.8 points per game and shot a career-low 38.4 percent from the floor. However, Little did not play overseas during the offseason, so her mind and body are fully recharged thanks to her new surroundings.

“This is like a breath of fresh air to play with people I never get to play with. Obviously, it’ll be fun not to get my shot blocked by Brittney, not chasing Danielle around as fast as she is,” she said.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect for Little is the guidance she received from head coach Sandy Brondello.

“Be myself. I love that, because I don’t have to try to do anything that I can’t do,” Little said. “I’m always going to try and do the little things. I just want to bring some toughness defensively.”

Another beacon of experience coming in is Leilani Mitchell, who returns to Phoenix after spending a partial season in Washington last year. Mitchell has alternated between starter and backup in her WNBA tenure, but her presence helps shore up Phoenix’s depth at the point guard position.