The New York Liberty underwent a bit of spring makeover after a series of trades on Thursday and Friday. How did they make out?
One could use the title of the reality television series Duck Dynasty to describe the New York Liberty‘s draft week fortunes. Extreme Makeover, however, would be equally accurate.
In the lead-up to Friday’s historic Sabrina Ionescu announcement, the Liberty made a trio of trades that brought drastic changes to their lineup. The aftermath left them with four of the first fourteen non-Ionescu picks and the New York roster in relatively organized upheaval.
How did the Liberty fare? ESNY investigates…
Trade No. 1
LIBERTY RECEIVE: Dallas’ 2020 1st (9th, F Megan Walker) and 2nd-round pick (15th, F Leaonna Odom), Washington’s 2020 1st-round pick (12th, G Jazmine Jones), 2021 2nd and 3rd-round pick, G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, and G Tayler Hill
MYSTICS RECEIVE: F Tina Charles
WINGS RECEIVE: Washington’s 2021 1st-round pick and New York’s 2021 2nd-round pick.
ANALYSIS: If immediacy was the deciding factor, the defending champion Mystics win this one by a long-shot. Heck, they might’ve won it back in October by taking home their first WNBA Finals victory. When the biggest thing you have to lose is the potential to begin a basketball dynasty, you’ve already won. With this trade, Charles not only has her best chance at an elusive WNBA title but reunites with familiar faces in Team USA teammate Elena Delle Donne and former Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault.
From a New York standpoint, this trade definitely stings in the short-term. The Queens native Charles meant a lot to the team and her departure seems ill-timed at best after being granted full Brooklyn privileges. Taking on the contract of Hill (four games last season) seems like a burden, one only intensified when Ionescu’s teammate Ruthy Hebard went to Chicago with the eighth pick. But if Walker is the consolation prize, the Hill albatross (or potential buyout) is a small price to pay. Jones should compete in a crowded guard picture while Odom’s defense could be a difference-maker.
Trade No. 2
LIBERTY RECEIVE: Rights to 10th overall pick G/F Jocelyn Willoughby
MERCURY RECEIVE: Contract of G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough
ANALYSIS: It would’ve been interesting to see how Walker-Kimbrough would’ve fared in the crowded battle for roster positioning. But her departure is nothing to get worked up over if the return is Willoughby. ESPN expert and former Liberty star Rebecca Lobo didn’t foresee the Virginia hybrid going in the first-round, but did offer her compliments.
“I think definitely her game translates. Her body translates,” Lobo said. “She can score at a high clip and high efficiency from the three-point line. She can take it to the basket. She’s got a good frame. She gets to the free throw line. (There’s) a lot of potential.”
That last part might be the most valuable to the Liberty. Over the final 15 games of the 2019 season, the Liberty reached the foul line just 14.9 times per game. Willoughby reached the line at least 10 times on eight occasions (she shot 87% during her senior year).
Trade No. 3
LIBERTY RECEIVE: Contract of F Stephanie Talbot
LYNX RECEIVE: Rights to 26th overall pick G Erica Ogwumike
ANALYSIS: Once current events shut down the scouting opportunities March Madness’ endless tournaments provide, familiarity became an important trait in the draft process. That was evident from the Liberty’s process. Two of Durr’s Louisville teammates (Jones and second-round pick Kylee Shook) were granted New York invites and Walker shared a year with Kia Nurse at Connecticut.
Talbot, who has built a respectable WNBA career after her third-round entry in 2014, reunites with her former assistants in Minnesota, Walt Hopkins and Shelley Patterson. New York also presents a collaborative opportunity with fellow Australia native Rebecca Allen. The two have recently worked together in the victorious exploits of the national team, the Opals.
“(Talbot can) shoot the ball really well,” Allen said of her fellow Opal in 2019. “She used to be more of a driver and the fact she can do both helps her game so much.”
Ogwumike brought name recognition, but her size (5-foot-9) was a concern. A de facto camp unit now becomes a potential veteran contributor that boasts familiarity with both on and off-court personnel.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags