Commentary: Why The Braxton-Spencer Trade Makes Sense

On the surface, the Phoenix Mercury trade of starting center Kara Braxton to the New York Liberty for little used forward Sidney Spencer seems one-sided.  But scratch under that surface, and the deal makes sense for both teams.

First, the more obvious beneficiary is the Liberty.  They are getting a former All-Star center, who has played on championship teams in Detroit.  Braxton has appeared to be in perhaps the best shape of her career, and there is no denying that the Liberty, despite the presence of Kia Vaughn and Quanitra Hollingsworth (as well as recent addition Ta’Shia Phillips), were getting pushed around under the basket.   Even in yesterday’s game vs. Chicago, a win, they gave up 13 offensive rebounds.  The challenge will be for Coach John Whisenant, who has not shown patience for lack of effort over his career to keep Braxton motivated and contributing.  This will be no small task for the veteran coach.  If he can do this, the Liberty can slide Vaughn over to play some minutes at power forward and take some pressure off Plenette Pierson, who has been playing a career high 27 minutes per game.

You have to look deeper to see how this will benefit Phoenix.  There is the obvious “addition by subtraction” of a player that had recently clashed with head coach Corey Gaines and earned a one game suspension.  Beyond that, the 2011 Mercury, with the addition of bigger posts Braxton and Nakia Sanford, have been an inconsistent team.  They have had winning streaks of four and six games, and two three-game losing streaks.  More importantly, the road to the WNBA finals is going to run through Minnesota, San Antonio and Seattle.   Phoenix is 1-2 versus Minnesota and San Antonio, and 0-2 versus Seattle.  None of those teams has a particularly threatening true center as a focal point on their team (no disrespect to the roles played by Ruth Riley, Jayne Appel and Ashley Robinson, but they aren’t the ones you worry about).

Phoenix actually matches up better against those teams with a front line of Candice Dupree, Penny Taylor, and DeWanna Bonner, with Sanford being able to come in and give some minutes against the big girls.  Add in Diana Taurasi and either Temeka Johnson or Ketia Swanier in the backcourt, and you have a lineup that in my opinion (based on historical success) will suit Coach Gaines’ style better.  Bonner should be the biggest beneficiary, as she should see increased minutes (her minutes were down this year).   Let’s not overlook the three-point spot up shooting of Spencer either.  There may be no better duo at finding the three-point shot on the break than Taurasi and Taylor.  Worst-case scenario: Spencer isn’t hitting, she sits in lieu of one of the starters mentioned above.  Best-case scenario: she becomes John Paxson/Steve Kerr/Craig Hodges to Taurasi’s Jordan and Taylor’s Pippen.

So in conclusion, while on the surface this trade seems one sided, in my opinion, it’s a winner for both teams.

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  • I respectfully disagree with this post. A lot of people are bashing Sidney Spencer but I actually always felt that she'd be good in Phoenix for the simple fact she could play either the 3 or 4 in their system and she could space the floor. People forget how strong of a rookie campaign she had in LA, where I think she nearly averaged double figures. I also previously thought that Penny Taylor's best position might be the 4, for the simple fact that opposing power forwards are too slow to defend her. I've come to realize that there is practically no one that can defend her. Anyways, when Phoenix added Candice Dupree, i i realized Phoenix was going to have to be a bit more conventional, yet ironically, was still going to be small in the front court. I'm not convinced that the Mercury won't need to defend solid post in the postseason. SA has Danielle Adams who is a handful as well as Sophia Young. Minnesota of course has Brunson who was an early season MVP candidate. Even Seattle without Lauren Jackson has BIG front line players who will need to be accounted for. If i were Phoenix, I would have tried to get a point guard or a true difference maker. Judging by their last 6 games, they are traveling down a road that leads them into the land of mediocrity. Don't trade a started for the eight woman on the bench.

    • Thanks for posting, and I appreciate the comments! There are definitely strong post presences in Brunson, Young, etc. as you mention, they just aren't that big. You mention Seattle with LJ, but other than A-Rob, who would have reduced minutes if Lauren is back, Le'Coe and Camille Little are undersized.

      The Mercury will need to zone a lot more defensively, but they have played that zone well in the past.

      One thing is for sure, it does shake things up, doesn't it?

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