When Brittney Griner returns from injury, the entire WNBA will be on notice when they play the Phoenix Mercury.
The Phoenix Mercury had a massive turnover of players at the start of the season. The two main players they kept were Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. This is not a bad core to build around.
Coach Sandy Brondello bought over Stephanie Talbot from Australia, Danielle Robinson from San Antonio after a year out of the game and Camille Little from Connecticut to complete the starting line-up.
Off the bench, she has had a solid contribution from Leilani Mitchell, Cayla George as well as rookies Emma Cannon and Yvonne Turner.
At the start of the season the brief was a simple, yet difficult one. Stop one of the greatest players in the game, Taurasi and a potential MVP candidate in Griner. These two focal points of the Mercury team did their job, setting record after record along the way. Unfortunately, Griner then injured her ankle, upsetting the balance.
Before this injury, the Mercury traded for Monique Currie, getting a veteran scorer and presence in the league. Currie took a while to find her feet in the Mercury offense. In the past five game, Currie has averaged 18.2 points including the 29 point against the Dallas Wings in the overtime thriller.
The great positive for the Mercury is Griner is due back very soon. This time would have allowed her to rest prior to the end of the season and she will come back stronger than before.
However, the difference from before the injury is Currie. She is playing inspired basketball at the moment and is a true third scoring option behind Taurasi and Griner. Teams can no longer leave Talbot alone as Currie has a greater ability to burn them
Griner will also help shore up the Phoenix defense, which has been a little lacking since she got hurt. The WNBA all-time blocks per game leader will come back in to protect the rim. She will also continue to rebound at a top ten rate this season.
The Mercury are still in a reasonably good spot for the Playoffs. Currently they sit in fifth, only 2.5 games outside of Connecticut who sit third. This is largely thanks to the work of Taurasi and Currie in the absence of Griner. There have been other cameos like the double double of George, a couple of big games by Turner and the great bench leadership of Mitchell.
The games left for Phoenix in August will allow them to shape their own destiny. Two games against a Seattle Storm team who have failed to live up to expectation should be very winnable. They also have a game against the fourth place Washington Mystics and the third place Sun.
The other two games for the Mercury are against the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx. The return of Griner should certainly make these games essential viewing.
However, it is the games in September which may influence the season of the Mercury. Their second last game is against the Sun. This game may decide who finishes higher out of these two teams. The last game is against the lower placed Atlanta Dream. Despite trading for Imani Boyette, the lack of Boyette’s playing time means the Dream still have no answer to Griner.
It is going to be a tough road ahead for the Mercury but with Taurasi, Griner and now Currie, it is a road which will be fun to travel on with them.