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Five Reasons To Watch The Liberty Work This Season

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2016 Record:
21-13 (1st in Eastern Conference; Lost in 2nd Round)

Key Offseason Moves:

  • Re-signed Sugar Rodgers and Rebecca Allen
  • Traded Carolyn Swords, acquired Bria Hartley & Kia Vaughn
  • Swin Cash retired
  • Tanisha Wright announced she will sit out the 2017 WNBA season
  • Selected Lindsay Allen (No. 14) and Kai James (No. 34) in the 2017 WNBA Draft

2016 Highlights:

New York Liberty’s Top 2016 Plays

 

Appreciating Tina Charles’ Brilliance

Last season, Tina Charles became just the third player in league history to lead the league in both scoring (21.5) and rebounding (9.9) in the same season, joining Chamique Holdsclaw (2002) and Lauren Jackson (2007). The 2017 MVP runner up was a dominant force on a nightly basis for the Liberty, she swept the four Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors and was named Player of the Week a record seven times. She also led the Liberty in assists with a career-best 3.8 per game, which ranked 13th in the WNBA and third among non-guards behind Candace Parker and Maya Moore. What will Tina do for a follow up to her incredible showing in 2016?

More Sugar Please

Charles wasn’t the only Liberty player to put up career-best numbers in 2016; Sugar Rodgers had a breakout season in her fourth year in the WNBA, becoming a full-time starter in New York and capitalizing on her opportunity. Rodgers averaged 14.5 points (more than her previous two seasons combined) and knocked down 86 3-pointers (second-most in the WNBA), while shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc (ranked 5th in WNBA). The Liberty resigned the restricted free agent in February to ensure that the sharpshooter would continue to rain threes in the Garden.

Playoff Breakthrough

The Liberty have finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference in each of the last two seasons and have a total of three playoff wins to show for it. In 2015, they advanced past the first round in three games before being knocked out in the Conference Semifinals. In 2016, under the WNBA’s new playoff format, the Liberty earned a first-round bye, but had to face the then red-hot Phoenix Mercury in a single-elimination second round matchup. Phoenix came into New York and left with a 101-94 win that ended the Liberty’s season prematurely. Will this be the year that their regular season success translates into a long playoff run?

New Faces

While the Liberty return much of the team that finished 21-13 last season, they did lose a few players that will open opportunities for new players – veteran leader Swin Cash (retired), center Carolyn Swords (traded) and defensive standout Tanisha Wright (sitting out 2017 season). In exchange for Swords, the Liberty received guard Bria Hartley and center Kia Vaughn from Washington in a three-team deal. The Liberty also added a standout point guard in the 2017 Draft in Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen. The Liberty will also get a full season from Epiphanny Prince, who missed all but six games last year due to injury.

More Offense

In finishing atop the Eastern Conference standings in each of the past two years, the Liberty also led the East in defensive rating in both 2015 and 2016. Their 99.5 defensive rating in 2016 ranked third behind Minnesota and Los Angeles, who met in the 2016 WNBA Finals. What separated the Lynx and Sparks from the Liberty was their ability to have elite offense as well as elite defense. Minnesota (107.2) and Los Angeles (106.6) ranked first and third, respectively in offensive rating, while the Liberty finished 11th at 100.3 points per 100 possessions. While they had the league’s leading scorer in Charles, they had only one other player (Rodgers) average double figures in scoring. Getting a full season from Prince, who averaged 15.0 points in each of her three seasons before 2016, should definitely give the Liberty a much-needed offensive boost. Elevating their offense should help the Liberty fare better not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.