Even with a new coach and half a dozen new players on the roster, the overriding question for the Mercury throughout this season was: Could they overcome the loss of All-Star Penny Taylor?
The answer was a resounding "no," as the defending WNBA champions finished 16-18, tied for last in the Western Conference.
As the Mercury turn their focus to next year, the No. 1 question of the offseason is: Will Phoenix have to play another season without Taylor?
The Australian forward, who sat out the season to prepare for the Olympics, is an unrestricted free agent (Phoenix's only free agent), and hasn't given the Mercury any indication of her future plans.
General manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said she has been unsuccessful in attempts to contact Taylor since the Olympics.
To keep Taylor from testing the free-agent market, the Mercury could designate Taylor a "core" player, but Meyers Drysdale said she isn't leaning either way on that decision.
While Taylor's absence next season doesn't mean that Phoenix will again be an also-ran, her return would instantly make the Mercury a title favorite.
"Let's be real," coach Corey Gaines said. "She's one of the top five players in the world. She demands a double team. You can't guard her. She scores down low, she rebounds and she shoots 3s."
Diana Taurasi (24.1 points per game) and Cappie Pondexter (21.2), who became the first teammates to finish 1-2 in the league in scoring, did their best to make up for the loss of Taylor's points (17.8).
However, Phoenix found it impossible to replace Taylor's overall presence.
"To take that kind of talent out of your lineup, it's going to affect everybody else and how teams defend you and key in on you," Meyers Drysdale said.
Even without Taylor, "every player knows that this was a team this year that had playoff capabilities," Meyers Drysdale said.
The Mercury hurt their chances with an 0-4 start, and played from behind the rest of the way. A four-game winning streak in the middle of the season put them above .500 (8-7), but they lost five of their next six and never got to .500 again.
Although Phoenix remained in the playoff race until the final week, the season was a disappointment, Meyers Drysdale said.
"I take full responsibility, and have to do a better job and bring in some other players next year," she said.