It seemed like Breanna Stewart was 50/50 between the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty. On Wednesday, she chose the Liberty and the celebration was on for Liberty Nation.
And, of course, WNBA Twitter was abuzz as it had been awaiting her decision with the utmost anticipation for some time. Lexie Brown, whose re-signing with the Sparks was announced just before Stewart made her announcement, had one of the best tweets amid the overflow:
Thanks for my 5 minutes of attention Stewie— Lexie Brown (@Lexiebrown) February 1, 2023
Stewart’s signing with New York puts the Liberty on a potential collision course to meet the Las Vegas Aces, who have added Candace Parker to A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, in the WNBA Finals.
Stewart teaming up with Jonquel Jones gives the Liberty the Top 2 players on Swish Appeal’s list of the WNBA’s best players entering 2022. Jones won the MVP award in 2021 and Stewart finished second in MVP voting in 2022 behind Wilson. Stewart won the award in 2018.
It was a tough decision for Stewie, and she ended up choosing the excitement of New York’s bright lights.
In an interview with Malika Andrews, Breanna Stewart said: "I decided to go to New York because I want to continue to be great. And I want to go to the place where I can continue to help this league become better, to continue to raise the standard." (continued ...)— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) February 1, 2023
"And I feel like why not go to the biggest market in all of sports. And I’m really excited to go after their first championship."— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) February 1, 2023
By the numbers*
Free agents (type) (2022 average salary)
- Sami Whitcomb (unrestricted) ($150,350)
- Han Xu (reserved) ($60,471)
- Marine Johannès (reserved) ($40,713)
Total average salary of free agents: $251,534
Let’s assume Stewart gets paid the supermax. In our original Liberty free agency piece, I assumed the team wouldn’t try to keep Sami Whitcomb at $150,350. Let’s stick with that assumption. That leaves negotiations with Marine Johannès and Han Xu, but both are reserved so New York doesn’t have to raise their pay to compete with other suitors. If they were actual free agents Johannès might be offered around $120,000 or more and Xu might be offered around $100,000.
So here’s a look at a 10-player roster for the Liberty (of course, they need 11):
- Breanna Stewart, starting PF ($234,936)
- Jonquel Jones, starting C ($211,150)
- Sabrina Ionescu, starting PG ($86,701)
- Betnijah Laney, starting SF ($201,984)
- Stefanie Dolson, second C ($160,000)
- Marine Johannès, starting SG ($74,305)
- Kayla Thornton, second SF/PF ($109,716)
- Han Xu, third C ($74,305)
- Michaela Onyenwere, third SF/PF $75,407
- Jocelyn Willoughby, fourth SF/SG $79,690
The Liberty will have $112,306 remaining under this scenario. The first thing I have to address is the thoughts (via Howard Megdal of The Next) that Courtney Vandersloot might be willing to accept that amount to be the last puzzle piece to a super team. However, Vandersloot has a very enticing opportunity to return home and play for the Seattle Storm. The only thing we know is that she has officially said she will not return to the Chicago Sky.
Courtney Vandersloot’s agent Lindsay Kagawa-Colas refuted reports that Vandersloot has committed to Seattle and confirmed to ESPN that Vandersloot has yet to make a final decision.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 1, 2023
If Sloot doesn’t join the Liberty, where does that $112,306 go? Will it still go to a point guard? The thing is Sabrina Ionescu is one of the best distributors in the game and Johannès is a good distributor herself, coming in at 3.4 assists per game and making one unforgettable pass last year. So the Liberty could get by without adding another point guard, but we’ve seen Ionescu have so much more success when she’s able to play off-ball.
As things stand right now, Ionescu or Johannès would be the starting point guard. Do the Liberty go after Jordin Canada to have an elite PG getting the ball to Stewie, Jonquel, Sabrina and Betnijah? As mentioned in our original Liberty free agency piece, Canada made just $98,000 with the Sparks last year, but that was coming off an off-year numbers-wise with the Storm in 2021. She was back to her normal self in 2022 with more playing time allowing her to average 9.2 points, 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals, and I think she deserves more than $112,306, especially since I said Johannès (10 points and 3.4 assists per game) deserves near $120,000.
Here are some other free agent options for the Liberty in the price range of $112,306:
- Bria Hartley — was Stewie’s teammate at UConn; made $190,550 for the Mercury in 2021 and had a fantastic 2020 during which she averaged 14.6 points and 4.5 assists before tearing her ACL; the injury caused her to miss most of 2021 and then split time with the Fever and Sun last year without getting much playing time before tearing her other ACL in late July; if the Liberty want to take a risk on a talented player coming off two ACL tears, Hartley may be available at $112,306
- Victoria Vivians
- Kiah Stokes
- Rachel Banham
- Bridget Carleton
- Damiris Dantas
- Megan Gustafson — based on what she has done overseas, could be worth $112,306
- Shey Peddy
- Epiphanny Prince
- Gabby Williams
- Elizabeth Williams
The Liberty could up their price range a bit by letting go of Willoughby, Onyenwere or Xu in favor of a player at the 0-2-year minimum (a player at the veteran minimum wouldn’t save them much), but I think they like having the depth that those players provide, and Onyenwere still has that upside she showed as Rookie of the Year in 2021.