What the New York Liberty could look like in 2024

The Liberty fell short of winning the 2023 WNBA Championship, having fallen to the Las Vegas Aces three games to one in the Finals.

So what does New York and Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb need to do to improve this roster and win the title in 2024? Who are the team’s free agents? Finally, what does the league’s prioritization do for the Liberty’s roster next season? Here’s a breakdown of the team’s 2023 roster, who’s under contract for 2024, and who shouldn’t return for next season.

Protected contracts

Currently signed for the 2024 season are Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, Courtney Vandersloot, Kayla Thornton, and Nyara Sabally. Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb said in the end-of-season press conference that Breanna Stewart will be cored. If a player receives a Core Designation, the team that designates them as such is the only team with which a player can sign or negotiate a contract during the free agency period. This would lock in six players for the 2024 roster.

*Free agency and salary cap information courtesy of HerHoopStats.com

Free agents

Unrestricted free agents are Jonquel Jones and Stefanie Dolson. Restricted free agents are solely Jocelyn Willoughby. Finally, the reserved players are Han Xu and Marine Johannès. Unrestricted free agents can negotiate with any team in the league. Restricted free agents can only negotiate with their previous team. Reserved players happen when a player’s contract has expired, but they have three or fewer years of service in the WNBA, they become “reserved,” and their previous team holds exclusive rights.

Kolb has said the Liberty re-signing Jonquel Jones is a priority and will enable the Liberty to “run it back.”

Bringing back Jones will enable the Liberty to establish more chemistry with their starting five. However, the rest of the team’s free agents might not be on the Liberty’s roster come opening day in 2024. Here’s why:

Doubtful for 2024 in Brooklyn

Dolson: Missed 17 games due to an ankle injury. Had career lows in almost every category. If Stewart gets the supermax ($241,984) and Jones is also brought back on a hefty contract, there’s basically no room to bring back Dolson, even on a veteran’s minimum deal. The only reason for Dolson to return to Brooklyn in 2024 would be if Jonquel Jones signs with another team.

Johannès: Falls under the prioritization rule and is doubtful to be able to play in the WNBA in 2024. A key bench player for New York this season but failed to produce much for the team during the playoffs. Marine averaged only 2.7 points per game on 27.6% shooting during the playoffs. Additionally, she would average only 0.8 assists per game, 0.7 rebounds per game, and 11.5 minutes per game.

Han Xu: Han could possibly suit up for the Liberty again in 2024. However, her commitment to the Chinese national team took priority in 2023. Three times in total, Han left the Liberty to join China’s national team this summer. Additionally, Han could have returned for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals but opted to stay in China and start playing in the Chinese Women’s Basketball Association. The inclusion of the 2024 Paris Olympics will likely deter Han from playing for the Liberty next season.

Willoughby: Her protected contract in 2023 likely kept her on the roster for an additional season over Epiphanny Prince or DiDi Richards. At best, she receives a training camp contract to rejoin the Liberty next season. Willoughby’s stats have continued to decline since her 2020 rookie season.

Revamping their bench

The Liberty likely have a tough assignment ahead of them for the 2024 season. This will require a near-complete overhaul of their bench. Lock in Thornton and Sabally, and now New York has four roster spots available to fill. Looking ahead to the 2024 WNBA draft, the Liberty holds the following picks: No.11, No. 17, No. 23, and No. 35. Two of these picks could land on the opening-day roster. The other two roster spots will need to be filled via free agency.

Draft needs: this 2024 WNBA Draft is shaping up to be a very deep draft. Additionally, it appears to be very deep on point guards. This is where New York could capitalize with the eleventh pick by drafting Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon, Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore, or South Carolina’s Te-Hina Paopao. Their 17th pick could be an Australian that head coach Sandy Brondello is familiar with. The Liberty will look to take either Isobel Borlese or Nyadiew Puoch here. Either player can add instant offense for New York. Later picks could possibly be Mississippi State’s Jessika Carter, Utah’s Alissa Pili, or TCU’s Sedona Prince.

Free agency targets: The Liberty would benefit from a veteran point guard and a post player. Dolson might end up being too expensive to retain. Furthermore, the possibility of Allie Quigley playing one final season with her wife, Courtney Vandersloot, could also be too expensive. Could Sandy lure fellow Aussie Cayla George from Las Vegas? Megan Gustafson could also be an option for New York. In terms of guards, there are former Liberty players Layshia Clarendon and Lindsay Allen available, as well as 2023 hardship returnee Epiphanny Prince. The Liberty could look for cheaper contracts to stay under the salary with Charli Collier, Destanni Henderson, or Christyn Williams.

Unsigned draftees

New York also holds the rights to four players who were drafted by the Liberty and never showed up for training camps or a player the Liberty traded for and has never appeared in the WNBA.

Spain’s Carrera appears doubtful to show up in 2024 due to the Olympics. The same applies to France’s Fauthoux, who is also a teammate of Johannès. Adika probably will receive a training camp invite if she’s willing to come to camp. Germany’s Fiebich, a teammate of Nyara Sabally, could potentially show up for 2024. The highest touted foreign prospects for the Liberty since Han Xu. Fiebich’s participation in the WNBA for 2024 comes down to whether Germany qualifies for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Potential 2024 roster

Salary cap limitations will see the Liberty forced to carry only 11 players again for 2024. The entire reconstruction of their roster falls on re-signing Jonquel Jones. If Jones returns, the rest of the roster should fall into place with the same five starters from 2023. Their bench will then consist of Thornton, Sabally, their 11th and 17th overall picks, plus possibly one (cheap) free agent, and possibly Leonie Fiebich. Otherwise, if Jones decides to sign elsewhere, New York could look to bring back Dolson, sign a free-agent veteran point guard or Quigley, and stick with their two early draftees.

Todd Roman is on Twitter, too. Follow Todd @TBRBWAY.

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