With the New York Liberty's season officially getting underway tonight against the Indiana Fever, I reached out to Swish Appeal's Albert Lee to help get a feel for the team as well as the larger WNBA landscape. Here's our convo:
Brian Fleurantin: Last year, the Liberty were second worst in offensive efficiency in the league. With the new faces on the team this year, how do you see the offense improving surrounding Tina Charles?
Albert Lee: The main new face for New York is rookie guard Asia Durr. She is coming off of being a two-time ACC Player of the Year from Louisville and a 2018 Final Four Appearance. Durr is an explosive perimeter scorer who can make shots from three (38.5 percent for her career) and from midrange. Durr also improved her ability to be an effective passer (3.3 assists per game as a senior) to help her team in more ways than just scoring. Ultimately, Tina Charles needs perimeter scoring help and Durr is the type of guard who can help her right away. Because of that, they should figure to be closer to average.
BF: As a part two, what’s a reasonable expectation for the team overall this season?
AL: The Liberty should expect to contend for a playoff spot. Given that they were just 7-27 and lost 13 straight games to finish the 2018 season, it shouldn’t be too difficult to double their win total from last year if the Charles and Durr duo can develop strong chemistry early on.
BF: Who’s one player that Liberty fans should be most excited to watch this season?
AL: Besides Durr, Kia Nurse is another player whom fans should be excited about. Last season, Nurse had her moments as a perimeter scorer and multi-dimensional player. She probably won’t be the dynamic scorer Durr figures to be, but Nurse should be able to play any position from point guard to small forward. Also, Han Xu has shown some veteran craftiness in the low post though she is just 19 years old. I wouldn’t expect to see Han play too much in 2019 but she shows promise to be a starting-level contributor nevertheless.
BF: Taking a look at the larger WNBA landscape, what’s one story or team we should pay close attention to throughout the year?
AL: The story that Liberty fans should pay attention to all year is the impact of injuries of star players on other teams. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird will miss much or all of the 2019 season for the Seattle Storm. Sparks forward Candace Parker, Mercury guard Diana Taurasi and Dream guard Angel McCoughtry will also miss time for their teams. Because of their collective absences, the Liberty could be in a better position to contend for the playoffs sooner than some might think.
BF: The looming issue surrounding the league is their unstable labor issues. How do you see that situation playing out as the year progresses?
AL: During the WNBA season, players are generally focused on winning as many games as possible for their teams. Labor talks are likely to heat up once the season comes to an end. But if more superstars get injured, that could heat up the rhetoric some before the season ends.
BF: And to end on a positive note, the WNBA has really begun to make a lot of inroads as it relates to media coverage, game availability, fan appeal, etc. What do you think they need to do next in order to maintain the momentum they’ve started to build?
AL: The WNBA has certainly gained more coverage in recent seasons while games are played in the summer. However, the most important step to keep the league’s momentum running is to continue covering the league once the offseason begins during the NBA season. Most players will continue to play overseas for the foreseeable future. So checking in on their international teams in Europe or Asia is one way to keep the league in people’s minds during the fall and winter months.