Sky reportedly trade 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper to Mercury in signal of true rebuild

The Chicago Sky are trading Kahleah Copper, the 2021 Finals MVP and last remaining starter from that championship squad, to the Phoenix Mercury, according to multiple reports.

Copper immediately lifts the Mercury into contention with the two-time reigning champion Las Vegas Aces and fellow super-team New York Liberty, as well as the Seattle Storm after their splashy free agency period. For the Sky, it signals a true rebuild period under first-year head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. Copper was the foundational piece to structure a contender since most of the starters on the 2021 team exited.

The exact terms of the deal are being finalized, per Annie Costabile at the Chicago Sun-Times. It will reportedly include draft compensation. The Sky do not have a first-round draft pick after general manager and head coach James Wade sent it to Dallas in the four-team trade that brought in guard Marina Mabrey.

Copper averaged 18.7 points per game last season, ranking seventh in the league, and made near a career-best 40.4% from beyond the arc, a useful addition for the Mercury’s league-low percentages.

Sky’s 2021 championship team dismantled

The Sky, who re-signed most of their starters on one-year deals for 2022, fell short in their repeat title bid. After Candace Parker (Aces) and Courtney Vandersloot (Liberty) left last winter in free agency, Wade intended to build around franchise cornerstone Copper. He traded away the future, a daring move as the 2024 WNBA Draft class is expected to be one of the most talented ones to come out of college.

Wade stepped down in July to take a job as assistant for the Toronto Raptors. The Sky finished the season under interim head coach Emre Vatansever with an 18-22 record and slipped into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. In September, before the season ended, Copper signed a two-year extension that would have kept her in town through 2025.

Mercury build toward title run

It’s a race to keep up with the Aces in the WNBA right now and the Mercury are here to play. Phoenix, which lost in the 2021 Finals to the Sky in a rare series between a 5 and 6 seed, is seeking a final title for superstar Diana Taurasi.

The franchise signed point guard Natasha Cloud last week and now add to their backcourt depth with Copper. Cloud, one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders, won the 2019 WNBA title with the Washington Mystics.

The duo will pair with Taurasi, who eclipsed 10,000 career points last summer, and Sophie Cunningham. Brittney Griner is an unrestricted free agent expected to re-sign with Phoenix.

There isn’t much the team doesn’t have to fix up under first-year head coach Nate Tibbets. They finished last in the standings (9-31), struggling first under head coach Vanessa Nygaard and then interim head coach Nikki Blue. The Mercury ranked last offensively (76.6 ppg to Aces’ league-leading 92.8).

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