Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter will be a major piece to help head coach Bill Laimbeer improve the team's short and long term prospects - Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
The New York Liberty started its 2012 season on the wrong foot with an 0-5 record, but ultimately finished with a 15-19 record to earn a trip to the playoffs where the team lost in the first round to the Connecticut Sun. After the season, Head Coach and General Manager John Whisenant was fired and subsequently replaced by former Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer who won three WNBA championships during his tenure there. How will he improve the roster for the short and long term?
Here are some things that I can see Coach Bill Laimbeer trying to do in order to improve his team.
1. Acquire post players who are not turnover prone in limited minutes.
Two of the Libs' post players, Kara Braxton and DeMya Walker played less than 20 minutes a game on average and also averaged around 2 turnovers a game each is not a particularly promising stat considering the number of turnovers on average they give up in the time they played. Both Braxton and Walker are unrestricted free agents this season and I don't think that both will be retained though one of them may be.
Anorther post, Kia Vaughn is a restricted free agent and I assume that she may at least be signed to a deal because she can grab rebounds and is not as turnover prone as Braxton or Walker and hasn't been as turnover prone for the team since she was getting regular minutes in 2011 on.
2. Acquire more taller guards and shooters to play alongside Cappie Pondexter.
Pondexter led the Liberty in assists and naturally, turnovers because the offense last year and even this season will run primarily through her. According to an interview with her in late January, Coach Laimbeer envisions her as a scoring point guard which would likely makes Leilani Mitchell a backup though she will provide three point shooting support. If this ends up being the case, the Liberty needs to make sure that there will be some additional taller guards to play alongside Pondexter. In addition, considering the longer three point line, hopefully these guards can regularly take and make threes.
It is possible that Laimbeer will retain Essence Carson who was the Libs' third leading scorer last year since she is a restricted free agent and even if he doesn't want her on this year's NY team, he probably should sign and then trade her. In addition, as of the date of this post, there are some veteran free agents who may be available such as Svetlana Abrosimova, Iziane Castro Marques, and Katie Smith. Smith played for Laimbeer and was part of the team's 2006 and 2008 championship teams as well.
3. Gauge the market for trade opportunities involving the 5th overall draft pick.
The Liberty currently picks 5th the 2013 Draft and figures to be in a position to get a player that may fill one of the previous needs. However, there may be other 2012 playoff teams that may want to move up to #5 if they are specifically eyeing a particular player and could open up some favorable trade opportunities for the Libs. There could possibly be opportunities to help the Liberty acquire post players who are less turnover prone and other starting caliber guards, and the 5th pick could be an additional trade chip to get desired players from other teams.
Conversely, the Liberty needs to consider trading up as well for a possible chance to get one of the "Big Three" draft picks or maybe even the Mystics' fourth pick if Laimbeer covets a particular player who may be available there. However, if the Liberty intends on doing this, it is very possible that Cappie Pondexter will have to be dealt which the team as of now doesn't want to do.
Bill Laimbeer inherits a New York Liberty team that has one of the top guards in the WNBA and he is also now reunited with Plenette Pierson who played on his Shock teams before its relocation to Tulsa. However, while last year's team made the playoffs, it was clearly a flawed team that our own Ray Floriani stated as a team that did not go to the free throw line at a good enough rate and gave up too many turnovers.
Fortunately Coach Laimbeer is a guy who demands the most out of his teams especially on the defensive end, and I certainly expect the Libs to have a good shot at making the playoffs in 2013, and before too long, his Liberty teams may very well be the perennial beasts of the East.