After ESPN’s Andraya Carter broke word of trade talks, Diamond DeShields appeared imminent for a trade out of Phoenix this weekend. Those talks eventually progressed into a significant four-team deal with abundant ramifications across the board, seeing DeShields head to Dallas, Marina Mabrey head to Chicago, and this year’s most active team, the New York Liberty, get involved.
It’s difficult to not get overwhelmed when contemplating this trade, what it means for each team, and how it may play out on the court. Here, we’ll try to do exactly that and look at how yet another offseason blockbuster shook up a quarter of the league.
The Dallas Wings remain an absolute anomaly to me.
I was pretty certain we were unlikely to see Mabrey, a restricted free agent, back in a Wings uniform in 2023 based on some posts from her agency as well as overall trends and verbiage from the organization surrounding the team during pressers.
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Snagging DeShields, a former All-Star and extremely talented wing who has grown as a defender over the past year, is intriguing. Adding Chicago’s 5th overall pick in the coming draft, while maintaining the 3rd overall pick they received from Atlanta in the Allisha Gray trade (is your head spinning yet?), and adding another pick from Chicago in their 2024 first is incredible value no matter how you slice it and or feel about the on-court fit of the current roster.
Considering that Mabrey was likely on her way out regardless, getting back a player with similar value makes sense and is a good idea, but the fit is certainly odd. Every move Dallas makes furthers my urge to pack my things, move to Arlington, Texas, and volunteer to rebound just so I can see what’s going to happen at practice. The talent has never been the question during this recent era of the Wings, but how it meshes has been. As I’ve written previously with respect to the acquisition of Natasha Howard in the Jonquel Jones trade, I just need to see it in action.
New head coach Latricia Trammell is well known for her defensive aptitude and mind, and there’s the makings of one of the better defensive units in the league, as they’re long at every position and have a wealth of versatility. Offense is where things get muddled, though, as they have players with a variety of skillsets, but lack a clear table-setter to help organize their action.
Especially with their best playmaker in Mabrey gone, this is a huge vote of confidence in second year player Veronica Burton’s growth. Crystal Dangerfield will need to have an important impact as well, but Trammell has mentioned in media availabilities that she’s already met with Burton multiple times to watch film and pick each other’s brains. It can’t be understated how key she might be to organizing this offense.
From a bigger picture perspective, the Wings have too many draft picks to actually use themselves, meaning they’re likely not done dealing. Dallas has nine combined picks in the 2023 and 2024 drafts, including five first rounders, three of which are in the coming draft. The Wings can open up roster spots by waiving some of their current rookie-scale players, but it’s worth noting that they only have two open roster spots after signing Kalani Brown to a training camp contract.
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Will Dallas package together draft capital and players they don’t view as part of their future to make a home run swing? Or will they simply kick the can and move some picks this year for future picks? Either way, they can’t bring in as many young players as they have picks to, and more moves have to be on the horizon.
Adding picks in 2024 and the chance to move around in 2025 is huge, as those drafts are ripe with talent and are deeper than the recent few. The new talent infusion coming into and impacting the league is hard not to dream about fondly. Team president Greg Bibb openly stated that this year they’re looking to take another step forward as a competitive playoff team; how those timelines coalesce the next few seasons will be a sneaky important storyline throughout the league.
Dallas made the biggest splash in this trade with respect to value, but how they work to make that value play out on the hardwood is the hardest to figure out.
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As for the Sky, trading out of this draft doesn’t surprise me when looking at the player added. Mabrey will come in, be an immediate starter, and perhaps in a new setting she pops into even more than what she already has been (a very solid WNBA player).
Kahleah Copper has the helm in Chicago, and James Wade and company are rebuilding on the fly around her to remain competitive. Some may look at this and scoff at trading out of the draft when they could add young talent, but I’d take this differently.
For one, this is a pretty good indicator of how the Sky feel about the depth of this draft. If there isn’t a player they believe they can develop into a star with the 5th pick, or develop into a steady starter during the next few seasons, it makes sense to move. Secondly, this is a significant bet on Chicago’s ability to re-sign Copper prior to 2024 and also to sign another star or multiple.
Punting on the 2024 Draft and opening up the possibility to slide down in 2025 is a large risk, but players like Kahleah Copper don’t just drop onto your roster in the square of their prime. On paper, the value proposition is tough to feel great about, but if the Sky end up retooling better than expected, and Copper ends up re-signing, I get it.
This team is frisky. James Wade is a hell of a coach. They’re not going to be a title contender, but I’d bank on this team making the playoffs and starting an enticing new era.
New York Liberty
This is fairly cut and dry from the Liberty’s perspective as they’re clearing up cap space and a roster spot. Onyenwere struggled to find her footing as a second year player and hopefully will be able to in a new environment, where she’ll surely build fans quickly inside Phoenix’s building.
With Marine Johannes likely coming over late, and Han Xu not yet re-signed (she has a reserved player qualifying offer from the Liberty), I’m very interested to see what happens with Nyara Sabally. Sabally, New York’s 2022 5th overall pick, missed her rookie season after having surgery to fix a previous condition with her knee. However, Liberty brass have repeatedly expressed their excitement for Sabally and drafted her knowing this could be the case.
How they look to round out their contending core will be fascinating to watch.
It’s hard to know what to take from this last year in Phoenix. It cannot be overstated how difficult Brittney Griner’s wrongful detainment was on the league at large, but specifically for the Mercury. Within that strained environment there appeared to be a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we still don’t have a full understanding of publicly, but it seems likely Diamond DeShields is happy to be in a new situation.
DeShields tweeted this the night the Mercury were ousted by the Aces in the first round of the playoffs.
Hopefully she is now a good place and in good spirits as she heads to a new team, while the Mercury can begin resetting after a tumultuous 2022.
Phoenix has nine players under contract for the coming season after signing Moriah Jefferson, although both Griner and Diana Taurasi have indicated that they will be re-signing. Skylar Diggins-Smith’s return date from her pregnancy is uncertain, but her return to Phoenix at large is as well, as she and Taurasi quite visibly did not mesh last season on-court with some notably heated spats. No one knows what to expect on the court from Griner, and that is all a secondary consideration as it’s just great to have the former All-Star back.
This team was competitive in the Finals in 2021, and Griner was an MVP candidate then. This is a very different team, in a very different situation headed into the year, and it’s difficult to grade this deal in terms of what it does on the court. That said, adding a player who can bring some versatility, but also be an injection of positivity on and off the court, something Onyenwere has been lauded for by New York’s front office and media, is noteworthy as the Mercury look to finally move forward.