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Mercury Drop To The Third Overall Pick: What Happens Now?

Hayden Cilley Avatar
December 27, 2023

The countdown began to the 2024 WNBA Draft as the Phoenix Mercury found out what spot they will be selecting from. WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin announced the fourth pick, belonging to the Seattle Storm. Anticipation rose from every fan at the draft lottery watch party.

When it came time to announce the third overall pick, Mercury fans assumed that it would belong to the Los Angeles Sparks. However, that pick now belongs to Phoenix. Even with Mercury president Vince Kozar and general manager, Nick U’Ren making a toast to the new chapter for the franchise, the champagne seemed to taste more bitter with the disappointment of going third overall.

Phoenix Mercury owner Mat Ishbia and his daughter, Jaime, represented the team in Bristol, Connecticut during the 2024 WNBA Draft Lottery. When the lottery started, it went as planned with Seattle landed its fourth overall pick.

However, things turned south as the Mercury ended the afternoon with the third overall pick, one spot lower than their projection. To make matters worse, the Sparks jumped the Mercury and secured the second overall pick. While the fans in attendance were disappointed, that same emotion filled the Mercury owner. U’Ren mentioned the competitive spirit of his owner, while being realistic at the same time.

“Just the fact that they didn’t come out at one or two, I think it’s human nature,” U’Ren said. “Once once they start to reveal the picks, your heart rate starts to go up a little bit. I think our whole organization has done a pretty good job of being quite pragmatic all week. I mean, if there was something we could do control it, we absolutely would but it’s math, it’s odds, it’s ping pong balls.”

Who Could Be The Third Overall Pick?

This is tricky, as teams have to account for the fifth year of eligibility for the top three projected picks (Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink and Paige Bueckers, respectively). If they all wanted to, they could go back to school and accept that fifth year. This draft though offers a variety of generational players. The top three players slated to go first, second and third, could all easily be first overall pick in another draft class.

Clark is the near-unanimous first overall pick in the 2024 Draft. The Iowa guard and all-time leading scorer continues to shine bright and is even improving from her historic junior year. She’s averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game and playing 32.4 minutes. Maybe the most impressive statistic has to be her turnovers, as she cut down from 4.2 per game, to 3.2 per game. Her generational scoring ability, mixed with the ferocious, competitive spirit makes her the clear-favorite to go first overall.

Likely to go second is Stanford forward Cameron Brink. The reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year is averaging 18.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game while only playing 21.7 minutes a game, her lowest since her sophomore year. The defensive prowess and acumen she shows could be a huge asset for a Phoenix team that ranked dead last in rebounding. Not only that, the combination of her and Brittney Griner can be a nice inside-out presence, with Brink being able to face up and score away from the basket.

One scenario that Mercury fans can dream of would be a world where the team selects University of Connecticut guard Paige Bueckers with their third overall pick. The senior guard is averaging 19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. She’s posting similar numbers to her freshman year, where she won the Wooden and Naismith Award.

Even Diana Taurasi said back in 2021 that Bueckers was the “best player in college basketball already.” That is some serious praise from one of, if not the greatest player in WNBA history. The passing of the torch would be too good, as one UConn legend could pass the torch to another for the next generation. The third overall pick could have Bueckers name written all over it.

Any player involvement?

Taurasi made a comment two years ago about Bueckers and even raved about her once again before a game against the Connecticut Sun. She mentioned how “the game has missed Paige.” Mercury forward Sophie Cunningham talked to Arizona Sports about how nice the first pick would be and mentioned, “We have been on the struggle bus the past couple years and it has been awful.”

With that in mind, U’Ren values his players input, but knows that drafting the right player is a collective process.

“We want everyone to feel like they’ve got a voice,” U’Ren said. “These players have been watching who they’re gonna play with. So that’s part of the job is we gather inputs from everybody. We weigh all those things and then we come up with what the best decision is for the organization.”

Does Free Agency Factor In?

Big names are hitting the market. Forwards like Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne are set to hit unrestricted free agency with some expectation of a nice payday. Guards like Skylar Diggins-Smith, Natasha Cloud and Jordin Canada are also set to hit the market. It’s difficult for U’Ren to clearly define right now who he will take with the third overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

Impossible to say,” U’Ren said. “We’re 15 minutes removed from finding out we got number three. I think all those options are on the table and we probably won’t know that until we get into sort of the January, February period where some of the player movement happens and then it’ll still be on the table once we get to the draft in April.”

Although the free agency period doesn’t let players sign until February 1, U’Ren had a simple, concluding message to the faithful X-Factor for them to not lose any hope in the coming months.

“No matter what, we’re going to add talent,” U’Ren said. This draft lottery is not the end all, be all for defining our success moving forward. Then I’d say, go back and look at past drafts in this league and you can find talent anywhere across the board and it’s our job to go try to do that.”

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