On the eve of free agency, the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics got the player movement started a little early with a three-team trade that sends Carolyn Swords to Seattle, Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to New York, and two Seattle picks (including the No. 6 overall in this year’s draft) to Washington. Let’s take a look at what each team gains from this deal.
Seattle Storm: Carolyn Swords
“One of our objectives this offseason and free agency period was to add another post with length and size around the rim,” said Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis.
The Storm certainly did that by adding Swords, who at 6-6 will become the tallest player on the Storm roster. In just 17 minutes a game with New York last season, Swords averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 57
Though not much of an offensive threat in terms of getting her own shot in the post, Swords is reliable in finishing drop-offs and offensive rebound opportunities. Plus, with Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, Seattle isn’t exactly in wanting for offensive production.
Most importantly, then, will be Swords presence in the paint. Her 4.6 rebounds per game last season were more than anyone on the Storm roster besides Stewart and Crystal Langhorne, and she should do much to improve Seattle’s rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds which the team grabs), which at 48.4 was tied for third-worst in the league last season.
In addition, she should be able to improve an already solid Storm defense, which finished last season with the fourth-best defensive rating (102.9). Swords isn’t the most athletic big around, but she’s strong, works hard and has great instincts.
Here you can see her strength as she fends off Brittney Griner in the post, and her instincts as she comes across the lane to get a block.
Coming over from the Washington Mystics, Bria Hartley will “enhance our guard strength,” said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer. With the likes of Sugar Rodgers, Tanisha Wright and Brittany Boyd already in town, Hartley will have to earn her minutes, but Laimbeer has shown he’s willing to give everyone a chance, as 11 different players played at least 11 minutes per game for the Liberty last season.
The main way in which Hartley will likely be able to provide value for the Liberty is from behind the three-point line. The fourth-year guard from UConn shot a career-high 36.2 percent from downtown last season, and although she only took 58 threes, that would have been the second most on the Liberty last season.
In 2016, the Liberty finished the season third in three-point percentage, knocking down 36.3 percent of their attempts, but they only took about 12 triples a night, which was third-least in the league. Sugar Rodgers, who had a breakout season last year, was really their only deep threat, launching 208 of the team’s 422 three-point attempts.
Hartley doesn’t quite fire at that rate, but she’s more than willing to take and make an open three, which is a necessary skill for Liberty guards to have, as teams will likely try harder than ever to force the ball out of Tina Charles’ hands this season.
With Charles’ passing ever improving, Hartley could get plenty of opportunities like this with the Liberty. And if she can shoot like she did last season, she’ll earn minutes on Laimbeer’s squad.
With Swords heading to Seattle, New York picked up Vaughn to help fill the void inside. Kiah Stokes and Amanda Zahui B have each shown potential in their first few seasons, but adding the veteran Vaughn is an important move to sure up the Liberty’s interior presence alongside Charles.
Entering her ninth season, Vaughn — who averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game with Washington last season — is another veteran presence who is already familiar with the pressure of playing in New York, having spent her first four seasons with the Liberty. As Laimbeer noted, “Kia Vaughn will bring toughness and experience to our front court, and she is a consummate professional basketball player.”
She’s a bit more of an offensive threat than Swords, and quite capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers, which should help spread the floor a bit for a Liberty team that lacks shooting.
And although not quite as big or long as Swords, Vaughn is still a fairly strong rebounder, and should be able to replicate Swords production on that front.
With a young guard (Hartley) and a veteran big (Vaughn) now gone, Washington has roster spots to fill, and with Seattle’s first round pick, the Mystics now have two of the top six picks in this spring’s draft.
Whether they keep them, or use them to facilitate a trade, Washington is in a good place to add strong pieces to their roster as they look to return to the playoffs.