Dallas Wings trade four-time WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith to Phoenix Mercury for three first-round picks

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The absolutely wild WNBA offseason continued on Wednesday when the Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury agreed to a blockbuster trade that will send four-time All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith to the Mercury and three first-round picks to the Wings. Dallas will acquire the Nos. 5 and 7 picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft, and the Mercury's 2021 first-round pick. 

Just 24 hours prior, the Mercury completed another huge trade, sending franchise icon DeWanna Bonner to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for three first-round picks, giving them the assets to swing the trade for Diggins-Smith -- though the picks they got from the Sun are not the exact same picks they sent the Wings. 

Diggins-Smith was an unrestricted free agent, but had been made a core player by the Wings, meaning they had exclusive negotiating rights with her. However, due to complaints she had with the franchise regarding their lack of support for her during her pregnancy, she indicated last month she would never play for them. As a result, it was just a matter of time before the Wings sent her elsewhere in a sign-and-trade, and now she's off to Phoenix. 

In the immediate aftermath, the Wings made a separate trade with the Chicago Sky, sending the 2021 first-round pick to Chicago in exchange for Astou Ndour. That's a nice little move for the Wings, but is clearly not the main story here. 

Let's grade the Diggins-Smith trade:

Mercury trade grade: A

Phoenix receives:

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith

Considering Bonner wanted out, the Mercury did well to get back three first-round picks in a sign-and-trade, but that deal left them in a bit of a weird spot. Without Bonner there was no way they were going to be able to contend, even with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner still in town. However, even though they suddenly had the assets to jumpstart a rebuild, those veterans -- Taurasi especially -- probably wouldn't have been thrilled with starting over. 

Just a day later, they made a brilliant pivot, sending out three first-round picks -- one of the selections they got from the Sun and two of their own -- for Diggins-Smith. "Players with Skylar's skill set and ceiling don't become available in free agency often," Mercury general manager Jim Pittman said in the team's press release, and he's correct. They don't come available in the draft often either. 

The chances to get a player of Diggins-Smith's quality are rare, and the Mercury took advantage of her frustration with the Wings. In doing so, they get an All-Star who can help them jump right back into playoff contention this season, and also extends their timeline. She's just 29 years old, the same age as Griner, and even when Taurasi retires, those two will be a potent one-two punch. 

Diggins-Smith averaged 17.9 points and 6.2 assists in 2018, the last season she played, and her ability to both score and handle the ball will take a lot of pressure off Taurasi when they're on the floor together. Taurasi is an elite shooter, and now instead of trying to be the main creative player for the Mercury, she'll be able to spend more time spacing the floor opposite Diggins-Smith-Griner pick-and-rolls, or coming off screens. 

There are definitely some concerns on the defensive end considering they replaced Bonner -- a long, versatile defender -- with a small guard in Diggins-Smith, and haven't been a strong defensive team for a few seasons now. However, we'll have to wait until they fill out the rest of the roster to offer a final verdict on that front. 

Regardless, acquiring a player like Diggins-Smith is a huge win for the Mercury, especially considering the position they were in following Bonner's departure. The league is going to be extremely top-heavy this season, and there's no guarantee about Taurasi's health or form. However, with this trade, the Mercury kept themselves in the mix for not only this season, but years to come. 

Wings trade grade: D+

Dallas receives:

  • No. 5 pick in the 2020 Draft
  • No. 7 pick in the 2020 Draft
  • Mercury's 2021 first-round pick (flipped to Wings for Astou Ndour)

Diggins-Smith is an All-WNBA guard, and you're never going to win a trade when you're sending out a player of that caliber and only getting picks back. Sure, three extra first-round picks is nice to have, but the chances any of those players are as good as Diggins-Smith are extremely low. 

To be fair, flipping one of those picks for Astou Ndour is a nice move by the Wings. She's a young, versatile big who came on strong towards the end of last season with the Sky, and will help their team. And following this trade, they now have four of the top nine picks in this year's draft, as well as multiple second-round selections. Those picks, along with young players such as Ndour, Arike Ogunbowale, Moriah Jefferson, Azura Stevens, Allisha Gray are a solid foundation to start a rebuild. 

However, the fact that they're even in this position in the first place is why they get such a low grade for this trade. Two seasons ago, they convinced Liz Cambage to return to the WNBA to partner with Diggins-Smith, and should have been in position to contend for titles if they built even a solid squad around them.

Instead, through complete mismanagement, they're now staring down another long rebuild. In the past two years they've had one coach -- Fred Williams -- fired after getting in an altercation with team president and CEO Greg Bibb, another player -- Aerial Powers -- taunt Bibb and thank him for trading her after she won a title with the Mystics, and two stars -- Cambage and Diggins-Smith -- force their way out via trade because they were so unhappy with the organization. 

This current regime hasn't been there the entire time, but at a certain point it's no longer a surprise that this franchise hasn't won a single playoff game since 2009, back when they were still the Detroit Shock, two whole relocations ago. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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