WNBA Free Agency: Recapping Day 6

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WNBA free agency—a period during which players without contracts may be signed depending on their free agency status: core, reserved, restricted, or unrestricted—is underway. We are keeping you covered on who goes where and who stays. Here is what happened in Day 6.

Phoenix Mercury re-sign G/F Penny Taylor

An integral part of every Phoenix championship team (and each Mercury team that didn’t win a title, for that matter), Taylor returns to the franchise for whom she’s played since 2004. The Australian is best known for being the Mercury’s #2 option on the perimeter after Diana Taurasi, but her actual impact on the team is far greater.

One of the most versatile players in WNBA history, Taylor has a remarkably complete skill set that allows her to play both wing positions (in addition to the 4 in smaller lineups). She has an extremely high basketball IQ and consistency about her game that has kept her playing at a high level through many injuries. She was playing the best basketball of her career when she blew out her ACL in the 2012-13 offseason but was able to come back and remain a key contributor to the Mercury, especially during their dominant 2014 title run.

Though she’s never been the most athletic player on the floor, Taylor has been one of the most consistently efficient players in the WNBA during her time in Phoenix. Owning a career TS% of 58.9% (with her last sub-60% mark coming in 2009) and eFG% of 52.3%, she can score both inside and out, and her game has aged with the best of them, setting the golden standard for longevity among WNBA guards. She was especially effective under head coach Sandy Brondello, who’s taken Taylor’s versatility to new heights, holding her more accountable defensively and using her more in the frontcourt to exploit mismatches.

For the Mercury, it was an absolutely imperative re-signing (even though there wasn’t much doubt about it getting done). Now 34 years old, Taylor might not be tasked with the scoring volume she once was, but that won’t matter; her skills and intangibles will likely be difference makers until the day she retires.

Indiana Fever re-sign G/F Jeanette Pohlen and sign G Erica Wheeler

The Fever continue to be one of the most active teams in WNBA free agency, inking wing players Pohlen and Wheeler to training camp contracts.

Pohlen has been with the Fever since they drafted her out of Stanford in 2011. She was once one of the most reliable spot-up 3-point shooters in the WNBA. Over her first two seasons, she shot a combined 61-138 (44.2%) from distance. Injuries have plagued Pohlen since then, however, and she’s struggled to maintain a rhythm in the new-look Fever rotation after missing all of 2014. That Indy only brought her back on a training camp contract is no surprise. However, she’s still just 26 years old, so this figures to be a low-risk move for the Fever, taking a flier on a player who, at the very least, can still space the floor with the best of them.

Meanwhile, Wheeler will be entering her second year in the WNBA after spending time in both Atlanta and New York in 2015. The Rutgers product made several stops overseas before signing her first WNBA contract with the Dream, and she tried to assert herself in Atlanta’s haphazard backcourt situation. Wheeler shot the ball well, but as far as decision making goes, she played like a rookie and didn’t really fit with the rest of Atlanta’s personnel. She was cut midway through the season before being signed by New York. Wheeler never really got a chance with the Liberty, however.

Now, she gets a third try in Indiana, where she will try to win the remaining guard spot left by Shavonte Zellous. It might be a better fit for Wheeler, who won’t have to play with the ball in her hands as much and will be in a more guard-friendly system, but she’ll have to show improved decision making to win the spot first.

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