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After trading All-Star Tina Charles, Liberty will have three first round picks

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Indiana Fever v New York Liberty Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA’s 2020 Draft on Friday will be a New York Liberty affair following the team’s blockbuster three-team trade that sent seven-time All-Star and signature player Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics.

The move is the biggest since Nets and Liberty owner Joe Tsai brought the WNBA franchise from James Dolan in January of last year and begun rebranding and rebuilding what has been a moribund WNBA franchise.

The trade, involving the Liberty, Mystics and Dallas Wings, will give New York picks 1, 9, 12, 13, 15 and 26, three in the first round, two in the second and one in the third of the three-round draft. The Liberty are expected to take the NCAA’s Player of the Year, Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon, with the first round pick.

Charles, a 6’3” center-forward, has been the Liberty’s best player for the past six years since being acquired from the Connecticut Sun in 2014. In her six seasons in New York, the Queens native appeared in 200 games (all starts) posting an average of 18.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per outing. A 10-year WNBA veteran, Charles owns career averages of 18.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 32.4 minutes in 330 career games (again all starts) in New York and Connecticut. She also owns two Olympic gold medals and three FIBA World Cup golds.

The trade had been rumored for months following the Liberty’s next-to-last place finish in 2019, but the actual transaction was still a shock, in part because of what Liberty got in return. Here’s how the Liberty’s official site explained the mechanics of the deal.

[T]he team acquired guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the 12th Overall Pick in the 2020 Draft, and 2021 First, Second and Third Round Picks from the Mystics in exchange for Charles.

The Liberty in turn acquired guard Tayler Hill along with the No. 9 and 15 picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft from the Wings in exchange for the Mystics’ 2021 First Round Pick (acquired in Charles deal) and New York’s own 2021 Second Round Pick.

The deal firms up the Liberty’s planned rebuild under GM Jonathan Kolb and new head coach Walt Hopkins. The team will move from the Westchester County Center in White Plains to Barclays Center whenever the WNBA season begins. Play normally begins in mid-May but the coronavirus quarantine has delayed that start.

“Tina Charles is a name that will forever be synonymous with New York basketball,” said Kolb in a statement issued Wednesday. “Over the past six seasons, Tina has cemented herself not only in the Liberty record books, but in the hearts of New Yorkers everywhere due to her tireless and selfless work in the community. On behalf of the New York Liberty organization I thank Tina and wish her well in Washington.”

Charles had hoped she’d lead the Liberty into Barclays Center but instead the team will be led by Ionescu, last year’s two rookies, No. 2 pick Asia Durr and Han Xu, the 6’9” Chinese import as well as whoever else the Liberty take Friday night.

“It’s something we’re excited to build on,” Kolb told The Athletic. “But it’s definitely a time of change and a new era here.”

Kolb told Mike Vorkunov that the Liberty had informed Charles of their intentions in February and the team accommodated her desire to join the Mystic. He also signaled it’s possible the Liberty aren’t done.

Walker-Kimbrough appeared in 34 games (1 start) for the Washington Mystics in 2019, averaging 6,7 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists, while shooting 43.2% from the field in 17.1 minutes. The 5’9” guard has appeared in 80 career games across three WNBA seasons.

Hill appeared in four games (2 starts) for Dallas before having season-ending knee surgery in 2019. She averaged 3.3 points and 1.3 rebounds, while shooting 40.8% from the field in 12.2 minutes.

The 2020 WNBA Draft will be held on Friday April 17 as a virtual event without players, guests, or media. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will read off the names of picks who will be at home.