2022 WNBA Free Agency: Phoenix Mercury could struggle to retain Kia Nurse
The Phoenix Mercury were so good in their semifinals series against the Aces last year that they arguably became the favorites for the finals. Diana Taurasi was an old Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner was just as good, making Phoenix the most dangerous attacker of the tournament.
The Mercury have reason to be optimistic about another run in the championship, but Taurasi, Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith are eating up a lot of canopy space. The Mercurys have the top-end talent, but their depth could be questioned if they aren’t able to hold up Kia Nurse.
Free Agents (Type) (Average Salary 2021)
- Sophie Cunningham (unlimited) ($58,710)
- Alanna Smith (unlimited) ($58,710)
- Kia Nurse (Restricted) ($70,040)
- Sonja Petrovic (reserved)
Average total free agent salary: $187,460
Total salary of the team: $1,062,135
Sophie Cunningham Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Kia Nurse will probably not be able to afford the Mercury. If she’s offered $136,380, Phoenix can match and would have to stay because she’s a restricted free agent. That would give the Mercury a solid core of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner Skylar Diggins-Smith, Bria Hartley and Nurse, but their remaining six players would all have to be the player minimum. Also, I think someone will offer Nurse $140,000. She was an All Star in 2019.
Not worrying about Nurse allows the Mercurys to be more sensible in putting together their remaining roster. Brianna Turner is obviously a lot cheaper than it’s worth and Phoenix is lucky to have at least one such player. She is a goalkeeper. There are no real bans after her, but the team must like what Sophie Cunningham did for them in the playoffs.
The Mercury could have kept Turner ($72,141) and Megan Walker ($70,127), who were waived, and paid Shey Peddy a pretty low amount because she’s reserved and doesn’t receive offers from other teams. Let’s say they paid Peddy $70,000. That would have left $102,607 to pay unrestricted free agent Cunningham, which should have been a lot. If you pay Peddy what she really makes, about $82,000, you have to hope Cunningham takes a little less ($90,607).
In this scenario, the Mercury would have had enough money left over to keep his three draft picks as they are now (one second-rounder and two third-rounders). They could have traded Walker for a pick in the 5-8 range as well. Walker was No. 9 in 2020 and has star offensive potential. She was eighth in the nation with a 45.1 3-point percentage as a junior at UConn.
Since Walker was waived, the Mercury could try to pay Peddy just $70,000 and Cunningham just $90,000. That would leave them $82,734 to land a free agent. In this area, you could be looking at Shavonte Zellous, Lexie Brown, or Lindsay Allen. Not a huge upgrade over Walker, but Walker really struggled with her reputed strength in her first two years, shooting 22 percent from beyond the arc. Perhaps Phoenix Brown, who shot 38.5 percent from downtown in 2019, thinks it’s a better pick.
*All salary figures are from HerHoopStats