Mitchell struggled through foot injuries in 2018 and was a casualty of the WNBA’s hard salary cap last month.
The Mercury have reversed course on one of the more surprising cuts around the league before the May 23 deadline to finalize rosters, waiving rookie Arica Carter.
The move will free up space under the $996,100 salary cap for Phoenix to bring back 10-year WNBA veteran Leilani Mitchell. The difference between Mitchell’s $96,757 and Carter’s $41,975 rookie-scale deals made it impossible for Phoenix to keep Mitchell, so they went into the regular season with Carter instead.
By cutting Mitchell on May 23, the Mercury ducked under the cap, finalizing their bill at $963,738 to begin the regular season, according to High Post Hoops’ salary database.
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The Mercury were likely most worried about the first 72 hours of Mitchell’s free agency, when teams could claim her at her high price tag. However, with other teams making cuts just as difficult as that of Mitchell, including Las Vegas eating the fully guaranteed, near-max salary of Kelsey Bone, no one else around the league snagged the veteran.
During Carter’s two games with the Mercury, she played just eight minutes, and was noticeably not in the team’s lineup introduction videos at Friday’s home opener against Las Vegas. It did not appear she was part of the team’s long-term plans.
In order to fit Mitchell back into the confines of the Mercury’s current salary commitments, Phoenix will have to sign her to a prorated $77,227 contract to match up precisely with the salary cap. That would signify a nearly 20 percent decrease in pay from her initial contract.
However, if the Mercury can get Mitchell to agree to the new salary (with likely few other choices available based upon her availability now), she will be useful right away.
Phoenix is currently operating with starting off-guard Yvonne Turner as its backup point guard while Diana Taurasi recovers from back surgery. Adding Mitchell to the backcourt rotation will allow the Mercury to limit the minutes of their veteran guards and inject some playmaking into bench units that have struggled miserably through two games.
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