There were a lot of great things to take away from the 2022 New York Liberty season. The team continued climbing up the WNBA ranks and got to host their first home playoff game since 2017. One of the best aspects and biggest surprises of their season was the play of Han Xu.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Han was not with the team for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Han returned to the WNBA in 2022 and at Media Day, spoke about her goals for the season:
“Even though I’m really young, I’m willing to take the initiative to do everything I can to contribute to winning more games. I’m here to learn and to grow.”
There was a dip in the middle of the summer, but the season was overwhelmingly positive for Han. In 32 games, Han averaged close to nine points and four rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game on .493/.444/.796 shooting splits. Throughout the season, we saw Han expand her capabilities on offense and showcase all of her budding talents when she got on the court. Having a big that can stretch the floor and do what Han does can open up a world of possibilities for her teammates and the offense as a whole
Over at Nets Republic, I wrote about Han and said:
Han has developed into a solid rotation player and fan favorite coming off of the bench. Along the way, she’s provided some magical Liberty moments as well. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but Han is still only 22 years old and has a world of potential. She has to improve finishing at the rim and playing through physical contact, but she’s off to a good start.
At 6’10”, Han has been able to use her height and mobility to serve as a deterrent to players trying to attack the basket. Teams barely had any success at the rim against the Liberty in 2022, as they held teams to only 58.8 percent shooting inside the restricted area, just 0.2 percentage points behind the Chicago Sky for best in the W. Han was a huge part of that success for New York
When we last saw Han, she took the world by storm as she helped lead China to silver in the FIBA World Cup. Han was able to take her successful return to the WNBA and build on it in a way that has made her one of the most exciting players to watch in 2023. In June, I had a chance to ask Stefanie Dolson about Han’s growth and she told me:
“I think her biggest thing is finishing. She’s so good at finishing around the rim. I enjoy playing with her because I like to pass. I know when I get in there, I’m always gonna look for her, and I know everyone else is thinking the same thing when Han gets in the game. As long as she keeps it up, keeps finishing around the rim, and being strong, she’s just gonna continue to get better.”
For Liberty fans, they’ll get a chance to watch Han’s continued ascension here in Brooklyn.
On Friday afternoon, the team announced that the fan favorite will be returning to the team in 2023 after accepting her qualifying offer.
Jackie Powell of The Next came through with the contract details:
Han Xu accepted her qualifying offer, the NY Liberty announced.— Jackie Powell (she/her) (@ClassicJpow) February 17, 2023
What does this mean? As a reserved QO, she'll be on a 1 year deal and her contract, $62,285, the minimum for a player with 2 years of #WNBA service, won't be on the books until the season begins. @TheNextHoops
The Liberty frontcourt promises to be one of the very best in WNBA history. With the acquisitions of Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart along with Stef Dolson, and Han, the Liberty have big players that can stretch the floor, operate the offense, find their teammates with great passes, and shut teams off at the rim. 2023 has the potential to be the greatest in team history, and Han’s play will go a long way in helping them make it to the top of the WNBA mountain.