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WNBA Offseason: New York Liberty hoping to attract Breanna Stewart

The New York Liberty have pieces Breanna Stewart may want to play alongside.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Chicago Sky v New York Liberty
Natasha Howard represented the Liberty in the 2022 All-Star Game.
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

With the WNBA Finals and World Cup over, it’s time to take a look back at what each WNBA team did this season and forward at what their offseason goals should be. Next up is the sixth installment in our series: the No. 7 seed New York Liberty, who lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Liberty statistical rankings (per game)

  • 8th net rating (-3)
  • 9th scoring (79.6)
  • 9th offensive rating (101.1)
  • 6th scoring defense (82)
  • 7th defensive rating (104.1)
  • 9th field goal percentage (43.1)
  • 1st field goal percentage defense (41.8)
  • 1st 3-pointers made (9.7)
  • 5th 3-point percentage (35.1)
  • 3rd 3-pointers allowed (21.1)
  • 3rd 3-point percentage defense (33.6)
  • 12th free throw attempts (15)
  • 11th personal fouls drawn (16.1)
  • 4th free throw percentage (82.3)
  • 7th personal fouls (18.2)
  • 11th opponents free throw attempts (20.8)
  • 9th offensive rebounds (7)
  • 11th offensive rebounds allowed (8.9)
  • 4th defensive rebounds (27.3)
  • 8th defensive rebounds allowed (26.8)
  • 7th total rebounds (34.3)
  • 8th total rebounds allowed (35.7)
  • 10th turnovers (14.6)
  • T7th opponents steals (7.8)
  • 11th turnovers forced (11.7)
  • T11th steals (6.1)
  • 4th blocks (4.1)
  • 3rd opponents blocks (3.2)
  • 5th assists (20.7)
  • 1st assists allowed (18.2)

Analysis of statistical rankings/offseason goals

The Liberty won their final three games of the regular season to get into the playoffs and showed some fight once they got there, taking Game 1 of their first-round series against the defending champion Chicago Sky. However, for much of the season New York was one of the weaker teams in the league and some of their numbers reflect that.

The two areas where the Liberty were just awful were free throw attempt disparity and turnover margin. They couldn’t get to the line and part of that is out of their control because it’s what the refs choose to call. But they need to be more aggressive in the paint and not just rely on threes (although congratulations to them for leading the league in 3-pointers made). They also sent teams to the line a ton (and it’s just bad luck when your opponents post the highest opponent free throw percentage in the league — 82.2 percent). It was the same thing with turnovers; they were toward the wrong end in number committed and number forced.

The Liberty were more a defensive team than an offensive team in 2022, as they led the league in field goal percentage defense. They also mucked things up enough to lead the league in least assists allowed. They were sixth in scoring defense, but at least their opponents weren’t playing pretty basketball on them.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Chicago Sky v New York Liberty
There are areas of the Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu-led offense that need improvement.
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Under contract for 2023*

  • Natasha Howard (protected) (SF/PF)
  • Betnijah Laney (protected) (SG/SF)
  • Stefanie Dolson (protected) (C)
  • Rebecca Allen (protected) (SG/SF)
  • Sabrina Ionescu (protected) (PG/SG)
  • Jocelyn Willoughby (protected) (SF/SG)
  • Michaela Onyenwere (SF)
  • DiDi Richards (PG/SF)

Unrestricted free agents*

  • Sami Whitcomb (SG)


  • Han Xu (C)
  • Marine Johannès (PG/SG)
  • Crystal Dangerfield (PG)

Suspended-Contract expired*

  • Kylee Shook (C/PF)

Draft picks

6; 30

Analysis of players/offseason goals

The Liberty got Stefanie Dolson to return to her home state last offseason. Can they do the same with Breanna Stewart, who is from Syracuse, this offseason? Dolson and Stewart were of course teammates at UConn.

Stewart met with the Liberty last offseason and this article by Jackie Powell of The Next is a must-read on everything related to that. Powell talks about how New York may have realized that they didn’t have a realistic shot at getting Stewart for 2022 and may have been planning ahead for 2023. Sue Bird’s decision to return to the Seattle Storm for one more year probably influenced Stewart’s decision to stay with the Storm, a team that — don’t get it twisted — she loves, for 2022. But now that Bird has retired, perhaps Stewart will be more open to the idea of leaving Seattle.

I personally think that, loyalty to the Storm vs. making a homecoming aside, New York is a very attractive destination if Stewart wants to win more championships. Imagine Stewart added to the big three of Sabrina Ionescu, Natasha Howard and Betnijah Laney! And then you’d have a very good player in Dolson to round out the starting lineup. Ionescu could move back to point guard, Laney could play the 2, Howard could play the 3, Stewart the 4 and Dolson the 5. Howard and Stewart could also switch between the 3 and 4.

You may not be able to afford to keep stellar depth, i.e., Sami Whitcomb, Han Xu, Marine Johannès and Crystal Dangerfield. But Rebecca Allen is a comparable talent to those four and you’d still have her as a great bench player. If you have faith in Michaela Onyenwere and Jocelyn Willoughby’s potential, it might be worth getting the best player in the world even if means giving up some very good players.

There’s also the issue of needing to pay Sabrina Ionescu a much larger sum in 2024 and a very real possibility that Stewart doesn’t play in the WNBA for any team in 2023 due to prioritization.

If the Liberty can’t get her, it will be difficult to decide who is a higher priority between Xu and Johannès. Keep in mind that Xu is only 22 and Johannès is 27. Xu has a lot more room to grow.

Dangerfield still has that high ceiling she showed as Rookie of the Year — 16.2 points per game is nothing to sneeze at. And even though Whitcomb is aging at age 34, you have to place a somewhat high value on her given what she did in 2021.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Chicago Sky v New York Liberty
Will Stefanie Dolson be able to recruit her friend Breanna Stewart?
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

* Per Her Hoop Stats