The New York Liberty reached the 2022 WNBA Playoffs after a 16-20 record and were eliminated by the Chicago Sky, two games to 1. So what are the needs for the Liberty to become more successful? Here’s a breakdown of who could possibly join the team in 2023.
The road to the playoffs for New York wasn’t easy. Injuries to key players nearly derailed their playoffs after barely reaching the playoffs in 2021. Statistically, here’s the Liberty’s ranks on the season:
- Points per game: 79.6 (9th)
- Field goal percentage: 43.1 (9th)
- Three-point percentage: 35.1 (5th)
- Rebounding: 34.2 per game (7th)
- Assists: 20.7 per game (5th)
- Turnovers: 15.5 per game (tied-8th)
- Blocks: 4.1 per game (4th)
- Steal: 6.1 per game (tied-11th)
The team’s offensive struggles were early on in the season. But, essentially, the Liberty’s offense would climb and remain steady after May. New York would also set a franchise record of 116 points in their win against Las Vegas on July 6.
- May: 70.4 points per game (1-7 record)
- June: 82.6 ppg (7-4)
- July: 80.1 ppg (3-7)
- August: 80.4 ppg (5-2)
Improvements for 2023
Upping their offensive game should be a top priority for New York. Enabling Sabrina Ionescu to play more off-the-ball would up that significantly. Additionally, getting more offense through the paint instead of relying on the three-point shot. The Liberty drafted Nyara Sabally fifth overall in the 2022 draft. Having Sabally there to crash the boards would have been an excellent asset this season. In addition, having Han Xu develop her game in China this off-season would allow Natasha Howard to lessen her overall minutes.
A potential young post combo of Han Xu and Sabally off the bench would also benefit the Liberty’s up-tempo style. Furthermore, Ionescu was second on the team in rebounds per game (7.1). Having their posts do more work on the inside can allow Ionescu, Betnijah Laney and Marine Johannès more ability to control the pace and freely shoot the ball.
Potential Additions for 2023
The Liberty hold the sixth overall pick and 30th overall pick in the 2023 draft. Howard and coach Sandy Brondello said they’d like to add a veteran free agent point guard in the off-season.
Natasha Howard on what this team needs this offseason: “I think we need a veteran point guard to balance the floor for us and help Sab, as well. We can get another big to also help Stef out when it’s time to rotate.” (Q: @ClassicJpow) #OwnTheCrown #WNBA— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) August 25, 2022
Let’s breakdown who’s locked into the 2023 roster:
Per Her Hoop Stats salary cap sheet, guaranteed contracts are with Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney, Stefanie Dolson and Rebecca Allen. Fourth-year rookie contract extensions have gone to Ionescu and Jocelyn Willoughby. However, rookie contracts are not guaranteed. Reserved status, where a team holds exclusive rights, belong to Han Xu, Marine Johannès and Crystal Dangerfield. Additionally, the Liberty also retain the rights to Kylee Shook, Sabally, 2022 third-round pick Sika Koné and Raquel Carrera. Furthermore, Sami Whitcomb is the team’s only unrestricted free agent. In addition, DiDi Richards and Michaela Onyenwere are both under their rookie contracts and aren’t guaranteed.
Essentially, the Liberty have five players locked in for 2023: Howard, Dolson, Laney, Allen and Ionescu. Willoughby’s fourth-year rookie deal shouldn’t guarantee her due to her lack of minutes at the end of the season. Likewise, this is where they could potentially draft a wing with their first-round pick. The possibilities are: Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, Maryland’s Abby Meyers, Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson, or they go with a point guard in Virginia Tech’s Ashley Owusu.
Free agent-wise, here’s the Liberty’s best options:
Vandersloot probably requires a near-max contract which New York can’t afford. Meanwhile, Wheeler and Canada can probably settle for ~$100k. Both are a solid balance between running the floor, providing solid offense, and contributing defensively. On the other hand, Jefferson would be questionable to bring in due to her knee issues but she is a better offensive player than Crystal Dangerfield.
Burke was waived by Washington mid-season and not picked up by another team. Odd since she contributed to the Mystics early on but could be an option for New York. Clark may stick in Washington on a cheaper salary to chase a championship with Elena Delle Donne. Talbot has been key off the bench for Seattle in 2022 and has Australian ties with Sandy Brondello. Davis played 2022 on hardship contracts but proved herself at the end while with the Phoenix Mercury.
The Liberty tried to get Stewart for 2022, but she opted to return to Seattle for Sue Bird’s final season. Joe Tsai just got Kevin Durant back with the Brooklyn Nets, so it’s not impossible for him to try and get Stewie again this off-season. Parker likely either retires or returns to Chicago. Bri Jones may opt to go elsewhere and may land in New York. The question then becomes does she come off the bench with the Liberty, or does Dolson assume a lesser role in 2023? Harrison is questionable to want out of Dallas, but her rebounding and toughness would be welcomed in New York. Azurá Stevens may not fit under the Sky’s salary cap in 2023 if Chicago gets all of their starters to return. Stevens may have a landing spot in New York, then.
Probable 2023 Roster
In all likelihood, the Liberty only add in a point guard via free agency. They get Nyara Sabally to play and have Han Xu return for her third season. As always with the Liberty, their biggest question is whether or not Johannès can return. She stated in their postseason press conference that she’s looking forward to the future with Ionescu. If the Liberty can lock her in, she would be a tremendous asset to this line-up. If GM Jonathon Kolb adds a point guard, then it would appear Sami Whitcomb wouldn’t return due to salary cap issues. The younger players are most at risk. Richards, Willoughby and Onyenwere could all potentially lose out on a spot in 2023 due to various new additions.
Sabrina Ionescu, Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney, Stefanie Dolson, Rebecca Allen, Han Xu, Nyara Sabally, Marine Johannès, Crystal Dangerfield, their sixth overall pick, a free agent point guard (Wheeler, Canada or Jefferson) and one of their younger players or Sika Koné.