Record-Breaking Mercury Scorer Hailed for Breakout After ‘Shocking’ Trade

WNBA star Kahleah Copper

Getty WNBA star Kahleah Copper

Kahleah Copper is 29 years old and in her ninth WNBA season. She has been an All-Star for the last three seasons, and was the MVP of the 2021 Finals, when she led the surprising Chicago Sky to a championship with an average of 17.0 points on 50.0% shooting.

It’s a bit strange to think she could be a candidate, given her lengthy list of accomplishments, to be a “breakout” type of player. Seems she’s already broken out.

But then, take a long look at what she’s done for this season, and you can see why ESPN tabbed the Phoenix Mercury star among the “biggest breakout stars” of the early WNBA slate. Copper put up 19 points in the Mercury’s season-opening loss to the Aces, and since then has rattled off games of 38, 37, 30 and 32 points.

For the season, she is now averaging 29.2 points on 50.5% shooting and a whopping 48.6% 3-point shooting. It is a small sample size, but Copper is on pace to break the WNBA record for scoring in a season, held by Diana Taurasi, who averaged 25.3 points in 2006. (Arike Ogunbowale with 28.8 points and A’ja Wilson with 25.5 points are also currently ahead of Taurasi.)

But Copper’s scoring jolt in her first season with the Mercury has been stunning—she is outscoring her career average by two-and-a-half times.

WNBA Record Book Under Assault

That qualifies as a breakout. As Alexa Philippou wrote at ESPN:

“Copper — whose trade to Phoenix following a career season with the Sky was one of the most shocking moves of the offseason — has been nothing short of sensational. … Copper’s consecutive games with 38 and 37 points — the former a career high, the latter coming against the defending champion Aces — put the league on notice. Only one other player, Liz Cambage, had ever recorded back-to-back 35-point games in the WNBA.

“And, although Copper’s slashing ability has long been a feature of her game, her hot shooting in a system that prioritizes 3-point looks has also been huge, especially with Brittney Griner out indefinitely with a broken toe.”

The Mercury are currently 3-2, and the loss of Griner could well derail a season in which the team might have contended. Still, Copper’s late-career ascension means anything’s possible.

Kahleah Copper Trade Looking Good for Phoenix Mercury

Interesting to note, too, that as much attention as the Chicago Sky have gotten for adding two popular NCAA players in last month’s draft—No. 3 pick Kamilla Cardoso and No. 7 pick Angel Reese—they had to trade away Copper to make that happen.

We’ve yet to see what Cardoso (out with a shoulder injury) can do in the league, but she is expected to be a defensive stalwart right out of the gate, though she needs polish elsewhere. She had better produce relatively quickly, because the two other players Chicago got in the swap for Copper—Brianna Turner and Michaela Onyenwere—have been only bit players, averaging a combined 5.8 points thus far in the season.

It is early yet, and Copper will be hard-pressed to keep scoring at her current record rate. Maybe the trade won’t look so bad for Chicago in the end.  But Copper made improved 3-point scoring part of her offseason plan, and so far, so good.

As she told ESPN, “My offseason was big. I took pride in being a three-level scorer, but I wanted to be more consistent. And off the court, it’s like we’ve been together forever … We’re having fun in these games together and I think that’s where we’re getting our separation.”

Read More