DimeMag

WNBA Wubble Preview: What To Expect From The New York Liberty In 2020

After going 10–24 last season, the New York Liberty are in full rebuild mode and will begin a new era on July 25, 2020, at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Some major changes came to New York this offseason — the Liberty traded All-Star player and franchise cornerstone Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics, while Walt Hopkins replaced Katie Smith as head coach. This team has one the youngest rosters in the league with seven rookies, including the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Sabrina Ionescu.

WUBBLE ROSTER

Sabrina Ionescu
Kia Nurse
Jazmine Jones
Kiah Stokes
Joyner Holmes
Layshia Clarendon
Jocelyn Willoughby
Amanda Zahui B
Kylee Shook
Megan Walker (has not yet reported)
Leaonna Odom

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sabrina Ionescu: Truth be told, the California native is a star before she plays a game as a professional basketball player. Ionescu is entering the league as one of the best college players ever, as she became the first men’s or women’s player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists in a career. She also holds the record for the most career triple-doubles with 26. The Oregon product is the new face of the franchise and is expected to impact the game right away.

Ionescu is a good facilitator and a good shooter from beyond the arc, averaging 42 percent from three while at Oregon. She is good off the dribble and is excellent in catch and shoot situations.

Kia Nurse: She averaged 13.7 points for New York last season and earned her first WNBA All-Star berth. Last season, Nurse finished as the Liberty’s second-leading scorer behind Charles and ranked sixth in the WNBA in three-pointers made with 65. The third-year guard, along with veteran Layshia Clarendon, is expected to provide guidance for this young team on and off the court.

EXPECTATIONS

Setting high expectations for this season doesn’t seem realistic. With young and less experienced players, observers expect the Liberty to finish at the bottom of the standings. However, the young core could set the organization up for years to come. This season will be a great learning experience, and while that does not necessarily mean wins should be expected, player development is an absolute must.

The Liberty have 16 games scheduled to be televised on national TV, while the reigning WNBA champion Washington Mystics only have eight. While the Liberty are one of the youngest teams in the league with seven rookies, Ionescu brings star power and excitement, although being media darlings may not bode well with the more established players in the league.

It might be a few years before the team’s hard work pays off. This is a game of chess, not checkers. It may be tough in terms of winning, but fans will likely have other things to cheer for and become excited about. This team should be considered one of the better up-and-coming young squads with a bright future.

X-FACTOR

Louisville product Jazmine Jones looks to bring her athleticism and defensive prowess to the WNBA. In her final collegiate season, Jones averaged an impressive 14.1 points, five rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting a career-high 53 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. She also is a prolific defensive player who was an All-ACC first-team and All-ACC defensive team selection as a senior.

Jones, a 6-foot guard, is an energetic player who has the ability to work on both ends of the floor and will be a compliment to Ionescu.

BIGGEST ON-COURT QUESTION

Will the Liberty live up to the hype? Will Ionescu be able to dominate the WNBA the way she did the NCAA? The young team will be thrown into the fire and have to learn on the fly. Building chemistry and continuity will ultimately help them compete at a high level, whether that’s this year or, more likely, down the road. Their first test is a big one, as the Liberty will kick off play against the Seattle Storm, which will have Sue Bird and Breonna Stewart returning from injury.

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