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LIBERTY RISING: Breanna Stewart named AP Player of the Year; Sabrina Ionescu All-WNBA

In what’s expected to be another year of honors, Breanna Stewart was named AP Player of the Year Tuesday. Next up is MVP balloting. She makes a great case for all of it.

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Things are looking up for the New York Liberty. The team had their best regular season in franchise history as they set records for wins (32) and winning percentage (.800). Along with the on court success has come a boost in attendance, TV ratings, and everything else you can think of. When the organization put this roster together, they had big things in mind. Now that we’ve reached the playoffs, some of those big things are starting to be realized.

It’s been an incredible season for Breanna Stewart. Stew York has fully adjusted to playing for the seafoam and had one of the best seasons of her illustrious career. She set the league record for 40-point games in a season with four. Along the way, she surpassed Diana Taurasi’s single season scoring record (in more games, but still!). Even beyond the scoring, she was a two-way force that controlled every aspect of the game:

Stewart finished the regular season:

  • second in scoring
  • third in rebounding
  • fourth in blocks
  • 12th in steals

and helped lead a Liberty defense that was magnificent down the stretch. Stewart and the Liberty play with a level of heart and grittiness that is associated with the best pro basketball teams the New York and New Jersey area fans have come to know and love. As Jackie Powell of The Next wrote:

The Liberty believe by engaging in proper habits, applying the necessary effort, holding each other accountable with respect and playing with a level of toughness, they’ll embody not only the essence, but the spirit of New York Liberty basketball. Those are the team’s non-negotiables. Heart is representative also of the legacy that the team hopes to leave in 2023.

On Tuesday, she added one more accolade to her Hall of Fame resume. She was awarded AP Player of the Year by the Associated Press. She beat out A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces by one vote for this award. It was the third time she’s won it, and second in a row after she beat out Wilson to win it in 2022.

In addition to being named Player of the Year, Stewie was also named to the AP’s All WNBA first team. Joining her are:

  • A’ja Wilson
  • Alyssa Thomas
  • Jewell Loyd
  • Chelsea Gray

That is some fantastic company. Stewart has a good chance of capturing her second MVP award, but is facing tough competition from Wilson and Thomas.

Keep rocking

New York Liberty v Dallas Wings Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Joining Stewart in the award circle is Sabrina Ionescu! Sab was named to the AP’s All WNBA second team on Tuesday as her excellent season was acknowledged by the voters.

Ionescu made some history of her own as she surpassed Diana Taurasi for most 3-pointers made in a single season. What makes Ionescu so difficult to defend is that not only is she a great 3-point shooter, but she can burn you in a variety of ways. As Courtney Vandersloot explained to Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr:

“Her ability to shoot off the bounce is what separates her. There’s been pretty good catch-and-shoot shooters, but her range also adds to that. Her ability to make shots all over the floor, whether it’s off the bounce, catch-and-shoot, contested, not contested, she’s a shotmaker, and that’s something that she works hard on. She works on her craft, and she’s seen that be successful this season. It’s fun to watch.”

What also helps Ionescu is that she’s always on the move. The Liberty have been one of the best passing teams we’ve ever seen, and when you combine great passing with non-stop movement, magic will happen.

Ionescu had the world in awe at All-Star Break when she lit it up and set a record for most points scored in the 3-point contest

She’s carried that over to the season and has been one of the best players in the WNBA. With the playoffs starting on Friday night, Ionescu and the rest of the Liberty will look to put on a show against a tough Washington Mystics squad.