The face of the WNBA changed dramatically this afternoon with the announcement of a three-team trade that involves three All-Stars and the defending league champions. The Phoenix Mercury sent guards Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Mazzante to the New York Liberty in exchange for forwards Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld, who then were swapped to the Chicago Sky for Candice Dupree. The Sky also sent its second-round pick (No. 16 overall) to New York.
2009 stats for the players involved:
Player Win% WARP Usg TS% Reb% Pass -------------------------------------------------- Dupree .556 4.3 .238 .501 .137 .19 Pondexter .613 5.4 .260 .559 .074 2.52 Mazzante .276 -1.4 .107 .528 .051 .13 Christon .583 4.4 .231 .574 .092 .15 Kraayeveld .402 -0.1 .140 .538 .104 .03
The three All-Stars in the trade had fairly similar WARP totals in 2009. Dupree has had better seasons in the past (as have both Kraayeveld and Mazzante), while Christon reached a new level of play.
From Phoenix’s perspective, while dealing Pondexter is difficult, not only do the Mercury get an All-Star in return but also free up room under the salary cap to re-sign free agents Temeka Johnson and Penny Taylor. Even with Diana Taurasi presumably moving to shooting guard, Phoenix will still have a bit of a logjam in the frontcourt, where one of Dupree, Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and Tangela Smith will have to be on the bench to finish games, but considering the alternative meant likely losing Johnson in free agency and that it was no secret Pondexter desired a trade, this is a good save for the Mercury. Phoenix’s starting five remains basically unguardable, though it will be a bigger unit with somewhat less shooting and better rebounding.
As for New York, this is a chance to add a legitimate superstar – the Liberty’s first since Becky Hammon was dealt to San Antonio. New York has been missing a player who can create off the dribble, and nobody in the league does that better than Pondexter, who could play both guard positions for the Liberty. Along with the arrival of Nicole Powell, the addition of Pondexter should help New York make dramatic strides on offense after finishing 13th in the WNBA a year ago.
By getting Christon, Chicago fills a big need at small forward that was going to be difficult to address in the draft (my most recent mock had the Sky taking Alysha Clark, but No. 4 is probably too high for her to go). Kraayeveld, one of three Washington natives playing in the WNBA, has also been a capable starter in the past (2009 was the worst season of her career) and should be able to step in at power forward. That will allow Chicago to take the best talent available with the fourth pick. The price the Sky pays is giving up the face of the franchise in Dupree and also getting two years older in going from her to Christon.