New York Liberty
22-12, 2nd in East, Lost in Eastern Conference Finals
New York Liberty coach and general manager John Whisenant has plenty of options on hand as days tick down to the 2011 WNBA Draft. Granted he enters Draft Day with the 10th overall pick on the board, but he remains open to the idea of potentially trading up for a higher pick, considering trades or perhaps even finding some answers on the free agency market.
Keeping an open mind is a good thing, especially when you consider the void Whisenant is looking to fill. Since losing last year’s team-leading rebounder Taj McWilliams-Franklin to free agency this past offseason, the Liberty has an apparent vacancy in the low post. But whether or not the Liberty managed to bring McWilliams-Franklin back for another season, it would have been an area he was looking to patch up regardless.
“Number one, we need rebounding. Last year’s team was below 50 percent in rebounding with their opponents,” said Whisenant, adding that he’d also consider pursuing a back-up point guard and a few skilled scorers as well.”
Size might be hard to come by with a late pick in the first round. That’s not to say it won’t be on the board, but acquiring a post player who might make an immediate impact for the upcoming season could be a challenge. In a recent pre-Draft call with members of the media, Whisenant joked that he envied the higher picks for their odds of landing a taller, front court option sooner rather than later.
If you look outside the paint, New York is primed to play a strong outside game. Between last season’s Most Improved Player Leilani Mitchell, who shot a league-best .486 from behind the arc last year, Cappie Pondexter and Nicole Powell, the long-range game is where the Liberty will likely look to hurt opponents most.
An existing history between Powell and Whisenant will also look to pick up from where it left off in Sacramento, when Whisenant traded away Tangela Smith for Powell after her 2004 rookie year in Charlotte. The following season, Powell was named 2005’s Most Improved Player of the Year.
“Every year she was in Sacramento she was one of the top five field goal three-point shooters in the league, and she’s always been an 80 to 90 percent free-throw shooter,” said Whisenant. “I don’t know why this past year was a down year for her shooting, but my experience with Nicole is she’s a smart, dedicated professional and [we] will find a good use for her here in New York.”
Shooters need rebounders, that’s a fact no one will argue with. Granted there is the prevailing hope that more shots will go in than rim out, but second-chance opportunities are a huge factor for any team’s push for a postseason berth. That is only further personified when a championship is on the line. Winning the battles inside remains the focus for New York before training camp opens, and it’s certainly an area Whisenant and the Liberty remain focused on.
Whisenant admits the 10th pick in the Draft is a hard one to determine. Up until the day he selects a player, he will continue to evaluate talent with the anticipation of making the pick that best suits the Liberty’s needs.
-- Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
|13. Kalana Greene||8. Kia Vaughn||7. Essence Carson|
|16. Ashley Houts||21. Abby Waner||14. Erlana Larkins|
|25. Cory Montgomery||27. Wanisha Smith|
|35. Alberta Auguste|