Mitchell will ease the minutes load on Phoenix’s bench and help the Mercury stomach Yvonne Turner’s absence for EuroBasket.
After a game last Friday in which all five Mercury starters played more than 32 minutes, Phoenix is expected this week to re-sign veteran guard Leilani Mitchell, according to a report by the Arizona Republic.
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The Republic reported Phoenix would make the move Wednesday, though Across the Timeline transaction info lists Mitchell as having been waived May 23. Indeed, the move was finalized that day in conjunction with Phoenix officially announcing its opening-night roster. League rules mandate a 10 waiting period between when a team cuts a player and when they can re-sign the same player, putting the expected signing date for Mitchell on June 2.
Rookie Arica Carter was cut earlier this week to clear the way for Mitchell, who will have to sign for less than her original non-guaranteed offseason deal mandated if she returns to Phoenix to allow the team to squeak under the cap.
Regardless of the semantics, Mitchell’s addition will shore up a moribund Mercury bench. In 10 minutes with DeWanna Bonner on the bench through two games this season, the Mercury have a net rating of minus-36 per 100 possessions, according to Positive Residual on/off data. They have been operating with starting off-guard Yvonne Turner as their backup point guard, making her play night to night a vital weather vane for the team.
Mitchell’s presence will alleviate pressure on Turner as well as Briann January. Yet the Republic also reported Turner will soon be gone as well, playing for Hungary at the EuroBasket tournament June 27-July 7. It was an open question whether she would make the trip or not — perhaps Mitchell’s return made the decision easier for Turner.
One situation that could make these roster changes a little more digestible for Phoenix is the evaluation expected to take place Thursday on Diana Taurasi’s back. She is currently recovering from April 24 surgery to repair a broken disc but is progressing well, according to general manager Jim Pitman, and could be back earlier in the 10-12 week timeline established at the time of the surgery. Ten weeks would put her back some time around June 23 at home against Los Angeles.
Taurasi admitted at the team’s media day she often finds herself counting off games to find the soonest matchup for which she could return. The team continues to emphasize they are being patient with the 36-year-old veteran, but if Mitchell struggles to return from a foot injury that hampered her in 2018 and Turner’s absence hurts more than expected, perhaps Taurasi does come back a game or two sooner than expected.
That is all for future consideration. The focus starting Wednesday when Mitchell is signed will be to rejigger the rotation to reduce the starters’ minutes and figure out how to cut down on the turnovers and offensive hesitations that have hurt the Mercury through two games.
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