It’s always improvement season around these parts. There’s always work to be done and tweaks to make as New York tries to capture its first pro basketball championship since the 1970s. The New York Liberty came tantalizingly close, but fell short in the end. As we officially begin WNBA free agency and the road to the regular season, the Liberty are back to work.
Last February, there was a big four-team trade in the W. The main focus was on Marina Mabrey as she went to the Chicago Sky from the Dallas Wings in exchange for Diamond DeShields and three first round draft picks, but the Liberty had a big part in it as well. When they traded Michaela Onyenwere to the Phoenix Mercury, they acquired Phoenix’s 2025 first round pick in a swap. Left unsaid was the team acquiring the draft rights to Leonie Fiebich, and she’ll be joining the squad in 2024.
At exit interviews following the Finals, Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb mentioned shoring up the bench and giving the team some more athleticism. In Fiebich, he was able to accomplish both with one transaction. Last year over at The Next, Jackie Powell wrote:
“Another WNBA talent evaluator agrees with [James] Wade’s assessment and explained that Fiebich’s shooting stroke compares to former Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb’s, but the 23 year-old is big enough at 6’4 to command success on the block and post up smaller guards. She’s also a three level scorer who uses her length to get into passing lanes to create defensive havoc. Playing for Zaragoza in 2022-23, Fiebich has averaged 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 44.5% from three on 101 total attempts in 22 games.”
From her highlights in EuroLeague, we see a player who can do a bit of everything on the hardwood
With this season being incredibly jam packed with the Commissioner’s Cup, a full 40 game slate, and the Olympics in Paris, depth will become even more critical. With Fiebich’s arrival, the Liberty have someone they can plug into a variety of lineups and fill a lot of different roles.
Shoring up the roster
In addition to Fiebich, the Liberty added some more players to the roster.
The Liberty has signed Okako Adika, Ivana Dojkić, Leonie Fiebich & Stephanie Mawuli to training camp contracts. ✍️— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) February 1, 2024
Welcome to NY! pic.twitter.com/zPn3muxeXW
Stephanie Mawuli is a familiar face as she was on the team during training camp last year so she’s familiar with Sandy Brondello and the team’s system. Adika was drafted by the team last year, but is joining the club for the first time. Dojkic has been on the Liberty’s radar for a long time and actually signed a contract with the team back in 2021, but couldn’t come over due to EuroBasket commitments.
Dojkic has been a professional since she was a teenager and has played all over Europe. She made her way to the W last year and played well with the Seattle Storm before requesting and receiving her release in August. While she was with the Storm, she impressed each time she got on the court.
It’s always tough for a player to transition to a new league, and one as competitive as the WNBA. Last summer, Jewell Loyd spoke about Dojkic’s transition to the W in an interview with Percy Allen of the Seattle Times:
“The best thing she does is push the ball ahead. She understands flow and knows who to get the ball to. The thing she needs to work on is probably fouling. When you play overseas you can get away with a little bit more than what they call here.
“She’s adjusting to that and how they call the game. She shoots the ball. She moves the ball. She’s not scared at all, and that’s a battle with any new player coming in. But her confidence is high and she’s not afraid of anything.”
With Marine Johannes’ status up in the air, the Liberty are in need of some guard help off the bench to back up Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot, and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton. With the additions they’ve made, it will make for some exciting possibilities and perhaps difficult roster choices when camp begins in the spring.
One more big move?
It’s been a busy week for WNBPA President and former LA Sparks All Star, Nneka Ogwumike. She’s been in town for the premiere of “Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story,” a documentary that’s available to stream for free on Tubi. While she’s been in town, she pulled up to the ‘clays to watch the Brooklyn Nets take on Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns. And look who accompanied her to the game...
Ogwumike is the biggest free agent currently on the market. Per his sister, teammate, and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka’s down to three teams on her short list:
If Ogwumike were to join the Liberty, it would make for a fascinating dynamic. Ogwumike was an All-WNBA caliber player in 2023 and is someone that can be the lead option on offense. If she were to join the Liberty, she’d join a front court that has MVP talent in Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart and a core that also includes Laney-Hamilton, Courtney Vandersloot, and Sabrina Ionescu. Brondello, the coaching staff, and players would have to figure out who would go to the bench, who’d be the first option on offense, etc. GM Kolb has said he’s hellbent on bringing a championship to New York, and Ogwumike would certainly help bring that goal closer to reality.