In our last New York Liberty update, the main conclusion was that the Liberty were looking a little too much like the “Stewie Show.” While Breanna Stewart still is going OFF, it’s safe to say the rest of the team is settling into a groove and finding out who they are as a unit.
One of the biggest talking points going into the 2023 WNBA season was just how different the Liberty were going to be: the starting lineup features three new faces, free agents came in from all over the league, there were trades, etc. Most people knew it would take them a bit of time to find their rhythm. Still, they had an impressive start to the season.
The new-look Liberty have found a rhythm
Now, as we are into the second half of the season, it’s been less about Stewie bailing out the team in crunch time and more about the team having full-squad performances they can be proud of.
The Liberty currently sit second in the standings, behind the Las Vegas Aces. Despite Friday night’s loss to the Minnesota Lynx (which came on a back-to-back because the originally-scheduled early June date was postponed due to air quality concerns in New York), their record of 18-6 is the best mark in franchise history through 24 games. They still are battling for positioning with the Connecticut Sun, who are performing great despite losing Brionna Jones to a ruptured Achilles. New York also clinched the Eastern Conference spot in the Commissioner’s Cup, where they will face the Las Vegas Aces on August 15.
New York’s shooting, scoring and steady stars
Individual players stats also are proving that the Liberty have begun to make more of a full team effort as the season has progressed.
Sabrina Ionescu rocked the basketball world at the WNBA All-Star game when she put up an INCREDIBLE performance in the 3-point contest. It was the best finish in either WNBA or NBA 3-point contest history, and earned her some deserved praise. Ionescu is second on the team when it comes to points per game, averaging 16.7. She also earned a triple double in the team’s win against the Seattle Storm earlier this week, with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
Breanna Stewart still leads the team in points per game with an average 23.1. To add to that, she is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game, another team high, and 3.7 assists per game. She recently became the first player in WNBA history to score 25 points, grab five rebounds or more and distribute at least five assists in a single half.
Courtney Vandersloot leads the team in assists with an average of 8.0 per game, while also adding 10.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game to her stat line. After a rocky start to her season, Jonquel Jones drastically has improved in recent weeks, evidenced by her nabbing an Eastern Conference Player of the Week nod. She leads the team in field goal percentage at 55.6 percent.
Betnijah Laney, who, along with Ionescu, is a returning starter, has come up clutch as well. She is a steady presence on the team, and can easily sink a bucket when the likes of Stewart or Ionescu are being double teamed. The Liberty present a truly scary proposition for opponents; you can focus on shutting down Stewie and Sabrina, but you still have to stop JJ, Sloot and Laney. That’s the beauty of this team!
The bench also is contributing to the success of the team. French national player Marine Johannés is proving she is one of the best sixth women in the league. Her stats fail to capture how crafty she can be on the court. Kayla Thornton and Nyara Sabally provide great backup minutes for the squad, and Epiphany Prince (on a hardship contract) has been great off the bench as well.
What’s next for New York?
While there is still a lot more season to go, this team is a shoo-in to make the WNBA playoffs. They should continue to have a historic season, smashing personal and franchise records. Team Stewie even won the All-Star game a few weeks ago! Although it doesn’t count for the standings, it’s a nice cherry on top.
The Liberty will face their biggest test of the season in the coming weeks when they meet the Aces multiple times — both in regular-season action and in the Commissioner’s Cup. Those game will be an uphill battle, but don’t be surprised if the Liberty are able to sneak at least one from the Aces this month. They look completely different than they did when they lost to Vegas at the end of June.
All in all, what was once the Breanna Stewart Spectacular is... still a lot of that. But, the team looks more “together” than they have all season. While Stewie certainly has won — and can win — a few games through her individual excellence, the team must continue to make a full-roster effort if they are going to make a postseason run.