In perhaps the most surprising move of the WNBA offseason, the Chicago Sky are trading star guard Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury, a league source confirmed Tuesday. Exact terms of the agreement are still being finalized.
Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP and last remaining member of the franchise’s title-winning roster, had agreed to a two-year extension this past September, forgoing free agency and solidifying herself as the centerpiece of the Sky moving forward. At the time of the extension, Copper said in a statement that “Chicago has been everything I could’ve asked for and more over the past seven seasons … I’m ready and excited to grow and build on my legacy here and give this city, our fans, my teammates, coaches and the entire Sky organization everything I have to bring another championship back home.” Copper was then part of the introductory announcement for first-year head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who was hired in mid-October.
The Next was first to report that Phoenix was close to acquiring Copper from the Sky. Copper played the last seven years with the Sky, making the All-Star team in each of the last three campaigns and averaging a career-high 18.7 points per game in 2023. Chicago acquired Copper via a trade with the Washington Mystics after her debut season in 2016.
In acquiring Copper, the Mercury have moved closer to a return to title contention. This offseason, they signed All-WNBA defensive team guard Natasha Cloud, who like Copper is a native of the Philadelphia area. Phoenix also acquired versatile wing Rebecca Allen in a sign-and-trade with the Connecticut Sun. Those moves, plus the trade for Copper, help bolster the franchise in what could be star guard Diana Taurasi’s final season.
Last February, Taurasi agreed to a two-year contract. While 33-year-old center Brittney Griner remains unsigned, she said in her exit interview in September that she has no intention of playing anywhere else. “Phoenix is home,” Griner said. “Me and my wife literally just got a place (here). This is it.”
The Mercury have overhauled their franchise over the last 12 months. Under new owner Mat Ishbia, the team hired former Golden State Warriors executive Nick U’Ren as its general manager. In October, it hired former Orlando Magic assistant coach Nate Tibbetts as its head coach. The Mercury went 9-31 last season, relieving coach Vanessa Nygaard of her duties after only 12 games. They seem poised to take a significant step forward this summer.
Chicago made the postseason in each of the past five years, but it too is in the midst of transition. In the middle of last season, head coach/general manager James Wade left the franchise to take an assistant coach position with the Toronto Raptors. Although the Sky made the playoffs, they elected not to retain interim coach Emre Vatansever and instead hired Weatherspoon in the offseason. In late October, Chicago hired Jeff Pagliocca as general manager.
In free agency, the Sky have been relatively quiet, allowing guard Courtney Williams and forward Alanna Smith to depart. While they signed guard Diamond DeShields, in moving Copper Chicago is pivoting toward a rebuild, although it doesn’t have the rights to its 2025 first-round pick after trading it last offseason in the deal to acquire guard Marina Mabrey.
(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)