Corey Gaines has been busy in his first full offseason in his new role as the Phoenix Mercury General Manager which comes on top of his head coaching duties and his position on the Phoenix Suns coaching staff. He already swapped point guards with the Tulsa Shock and now has acquired forward Charde Houston to help add depth to his team.
"(Houston is) a mismatch problem with her size. She runs the floor, shoots threes, she's a scoring punch off the bench instantly," Gaines said in a phone call with SB Nation Arizona shortly after the news of the deal was announced.
Looking at the roster that already includes talented forwards Candice Dupree, Penny Taylor and DeWanna Bonner along with guard Diana Taurasi, it seems likely that Charde will be indeed be as a reserve. Her exact role, however, hasn't been determined yet according to Gaines.
Charde also provides insurance for the team behind Penny Taylor who is expected to play a significant role for her Australian national team during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Houston provides a lot of the same face-up scoring and shooting ability as Taylor but isn't near the facilitator as the Aussie star.
Houston also helps the Mercury in another area of need according to SB Nation's WBB blog, Swish Appeal:
Quick Analysis: Phoenix Mercury Acquire Charde Houston From Minnesota Lynx For Draft Picks - Swish Appeal
The Mercury were not a particularly strong rebounding team last season, allowing opponents to grab the second highest percentage of offensive rebounds in the Western Conference (28.1%). In addition to being one of the highest usage players in the WNBA in 2009, Houston was also an outstanding defensive rebounder, ranking 7th in the league with a 22.8% defensive rebounding percentage. For a team like the Mercury that like to run, that rebounding could certainly be useful.
Houston was a WNBA All-Star in 2009 when she started 33 games for the Minnesota Lynx. She averaged career-high 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game that season while shooting 47 percent from the field.
In the last two seasons, however, her numbers have fallen as she played a lesser role behind Lynx stars like Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. Houston won a championship ring with the Lynx last season but played a career-low 7.8 minutes per game.
Houston is currently playing overseas in Israel and wasn't available for comment. From the looks of this tweet, however, she's happy to be coming to Phoenix:
*Jumps up and down* I'm a Mercury! I'm a Mercury! This day is amazing! Praising God!— Chardé Houston (@CharHouston) February 28, 2012
Houston is a fan favorite for many around the WNBA in part due to her aggressive scoring ability both driving the ball and as a shooter and also thanks to her passionate style of play and dynamic personality.
Coach Gaines has been on the receiving end of Houston's abilities on several occasions. Playing against the Mercury in up-tempo contests, she's averaged 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 16 career games against Phoenix according to a team official.
Houston was the 30th overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft coming out of the University of Connecticut. Charde was acquired from the Lynx in a sign-and-trade deal that sent the Mercury's 2012 second-round pick (18th overall) to Minnesota in exchange for Houston and the Lynx' 2012 second-round pick (24th overall).
The Mercury still have the sixth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft in April available to try and fill remaining holes on the roster.
The team has tremendous depth at the wings and power forward position but still has questions to answer at point guard and center. Veteran big Nakia Sanford is expected to return to play the five and Riley will compete for the starting point guard spot in camp. Both positions, however, are in need of additional options and Gaines didn't rule out additional trades.