The New York Liberty may have had a somewhat shaky start to the WNBA season — dropping their first game — but they have recovered nicely as we approach the halfway point of the season. With a record of 13-4 on the season, the Liberty sit in the second overall spot in the WNBA standings. Though they are in a constant fight with the Connecticut Sun for those two and three spots, they have cemented their place in the top tier with the Sun and the Las Vegas Aces.
There was a lot of talk about the Aces and the Liberty at the beginning of the season, and these two teams continue to prove they are two different brands of excellence. While the Liberty certainly aren’t on the Aces’ level yet overall, they have proved over the course of the season so far that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Yet, they are in this spot particularly because of one player — Breanna Stewart.
Now, I don’t want to discredit the efforts of the rest of the team. All three of Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu made the 2023 WNBA All-Star roster. Betnijah Laney, Marine Johannès and Jonquel Jones are essential pieces. Kayla Thornton has been an incredible bench player.
But, time and time again, Stewart is this team’s IT factor.
She’s undeniably putting together a convincing MVP campaign. She leads the Liberty in points, rebounds, steals and blocks per game. In terms of league-wide stats, she is top five for points, rebounds, blocks, and fantasy points per game. She is second in points per game behind her former teammate Jewell Loyd.
Currently, Stewie is averaging 23.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals on the season.
Stat line aside, she is constantly the reason her team wins games. In the Liberty’s game against the Phoenix Mercury, Stewart put up 43 points to bring her team ahead by four points, winning 99-95. Earlier in the season, she put up 45 points in a game against the Indiana Fever. Multiple times this month, Stewie has been the player to make the clutch play in the fourth quarter for the Liberty.
Stewie was selected as an All-Star captain, along with A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. This past weekend, she picked her roster, drafting teammates Ionescu and Vandersloot. The trio will represent the Liberty this upcoming weekend in Las Vegas at the WNBA All-Star Game.
The Liberty themselves are currently on a three-game winning streak, their last loss coming on June 29 to the Aces. Their other three losses on the season have come to the Atlanta Dream (June 13), Chicago Sky (June 4) and Washington Mystics (May 19).
Seven of the team’s 13 wins have been by 10 points or less, proving their experienced ability to close out games and win them. In comparison to a team like the Fever for example, who have also come close in multiple games, you can really see the difference experience makes.
With Las Vegas running away with the top spot, the Liberty’s main challenge as we head into the second half of the season will be holding off the Sun. The Liberty have won two of their four matches against the Sun so far this season, and winning at least one more would be HUGE for them in the standings. If the Sun and Liberty have the same record at the end of the season, the team with the tiebreak will move up in the standings. So, the Liberty have two more chances to take that from the Sun.
Other than that, unless something drastic happens in the next few months, the Liberty are looking at a great playoff spot. After the past few years of playoff misses and first-round losses, this is a breath of fresh air for Liberty fans.
Another potential upcoming battle for the Liberty may be the Commissioner’s Cup. The Aces recently clinched the Western Conference spot in that game. The Liberty and Sun both have a record of 6-3 in Commissioner’s Cup games, but again, the Liberty have the tiebreak in this scenario.
If the Sun LOSE their next game against the Sky and the Liberty WIN their game against the Fever, the Liberty will clinch their spot. If the Sun WIN their game and the Liberty LOSE their game, the Sun will face the Aces for the Commissioner’s Cup. If both teams win their final Commissioner’s Cup games or if both lose, the Liberty will win the tiebreak and go to the game.
The Commissioner’s Cup could win the players both money for themselves and their chosen charitable organization — Callen-Lorde. Callen-Lorde is a New York-based LGTBQIA+ health organization that works to bring accessible healthcare to all LGBTQIA+ people. So far, the Liberty have raised $13,500 for the organization.
So far, the Liberty have lived up to their “super team” expectations, although in different ways than the Aces. They are continuing to prove they have the experience and talent to make a run in the WNBA Playoffs. They also have a top-tier MVP candidate in Stewart.
Overall, vibes are good in New York! Looking forward to seeing if the Liberty make it to the Commissioner’s Cup game and how the rest of the season plays out!