WNBA daily fantasy preview: Phoenix Mercury

Plenty of points to be had in Phoenix.

Phoenix was one game away from the WNBA finals, losing to the Storm in an absolute thriller in game 5 of the semifinals in Seattle. That game 5 is one of my favorite games of all time, from Sue Bird’s iconic three ball to DeWanna Bonner launching threes from different area codes.

Despite coming up a little bit short last year, the Mercury return their big three, along with almost every other contributor. As well, while the Mercury have made moves to get better, it seems as though the other top teams in the WNBA have injuries or have lost players which has made them worse. I expect Phoenix to be one of the best teams in the WNBA, and they have many players are exceptional at putting up big fantasy games.

The Team Numbers

Though Phoenix’s postseason run was incredible, it really is astounding how poorly their regular season grades out by the numbers. A middling 1.8 net rating on the year puts them sixth in the metric, which is not normally where title contenders come from.

Part of the reason for this was incorporating DeWanna Bonner (the third of the big three) into the offense. It seemed as though it took some time for Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner to adjust to deferring possessions to Bonner, and it also seemed to take some time for Sandy Brondello, the coach, to find Bonner’s best position on the floor.

Because this fit was figured out towards the end of the year and in the playoffs, I believe the Mercury should be one of the top contenders for the WNBA title. Griner and January are two of the best defenders in the league, with Bonner also contributing in this area due to her length. While Griner is a traditional rim-protector, January is one of the better on-ball and wing defenders in the league. The Mercury played at a fairly average pace, at around 80 possessions per game. With almost zero turnover on the roster, I’d expect this number to remain pretty similar.

Player Deep Dive

The Mercury ended last season starting Yvonne Turner-January-Taurasi-Bonner-Griner. Off the bench came Camille Little, but she also put a few starts in during the year. I would expect these six to be the leaders in minutes for the Mercury throughout the year, especially once Taurasi returns from her back injury, which is expected to cost her the first few weeks of the season.

Some depth pieces, such as Leilani Mitchell, may come into play for some backup point guard minutes, but likely the above six will be the players to look at choosing. This team starts and ends with the big three. Bonner, Taurasi and Griner will take a ton of this teams’ shots, and this concentration of shots leads to lots of fantasy opportunity to take advantage of. Bonner produced just below 1 fpm last year, whereas Griner and Taurasi both produced north of 1.15 fpm.

It is worth noting that Taurasi is a much better option on DraftKings, as she shoots (and makes) a load of threes. These threes will be worth 3.5 fantasy points on DraftKings, as opposed to just 3 on FanDuel. Alternatively, Griner blocks a lot of shots, and those shot blocks are worth 3 on FanDuel and 2 on DraftKings, making her a more valuable play on FanDuel (for a recap on the site’s differences, click here ).

Because the big three take so many shots, Turner and January fall around 0.6 fpm. The opportunity for these two to score fantasy points is just not really there, though Taurasi’s injury will scramble things a bit early on. Unless they carry a super cheap salary, these two are likely not options. Because of the limited turnover from last year to this year, I am more confident in these players keeping their same roles, and their same opportunity. The Mercury players should put up similar numbers this year.

The Draft

The Mercury also added two first round draft picks, as well as a very high second round pick. Alanna Smith, Brianna Turner, and Sophie Cunningham were chosen by Phoenix. The only player that I could see making a true impact is Alanna Smith. Her position is more than likely a 4, and she can stretch to 3, shooting 40% from long range at Stanford. Presumably, she could fit into a lineup with Griner and Bonner. Brianna Turner is more of a true center, and likely won’t see significant minutes behind Griner.

Cunningham was a sharpshooter in college, and will probably crack the rotation for limited minutes. It is also interesting to note that Alanna Smith was coached by Phoenix’s head coach, Sandy Brondello, at the FIBA World Championships.

The mainstays on this team make for very exciting DFS prospects. The big three of DeWanna Bonner, Diana Taurasi, and Brittney Griner all produce fantasy points at a high rate. As well, some of the role players get to a low enough salary throughout the year so that they are playable as well.

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