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Sophie Cunningham: Phoenix Mercury ‘deserve’ No. 1 pick in draft

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(Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA draft lottery is on Sunday, with four teams in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft.

Among those teams are the Phoenix Mercury, who finished last in the league in the regular season. It was a tumultuous season, with the team firing head coach Vanessa Nygaard midway through after losing 10 of 12 games to start the season. The team’s playoff streak of 10 consecutive postseason appearances also came to an end.

The Mercury battled a number of injuries. All-Star Brittney Griner missed several games on mental health leave stemming from her 10-month detainment in Russia last year. Meanwhile, veteran guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who had a career-best season in 2022-23, has been out on maternity leave and will not return to the team.

Griner intends to stay in Phoenix, calling it “home” in September. Diana Taurasi, meanwhile, signed a contract extension with the team earlier this year. The team also recently hired Nate Tibbetts as its next head coach, with Kristi Toliver joining the team as associate head coach.

All signs point to the team improving on last year, although Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham would like one last piece of the puzzle to help propel the team past its low points: the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Iowa star Caitlin Clark is the consensus pick in mock drafts to go in that first spot.

“We deserve it,” she told AZ Sports. “We have been on the struggle bus the past couple years and it has been awful. … But we have a new GM, a new head coach and, of course, the new ownership with Mat Ishiba, and there have been changes made over here. So we are feeling good. … Whatever good luck or vibes you have, please send them our way because we would love to get Caitlin Clark on this train.”

The Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm are the remaining teams in the lottery, with Indiana holding the best odds at 44.2 percent. Phoenix has the second-best odds (27.6 percent) in the draft lottery.