One place the Liberty seem set is on the level guard place. Although Ionescu performed solely three video games earlier than an ankle damage ended her season, she rapidly displayed the advanced offensive repertoire that turned her Oregon team right into a juggernaut, and her 33-point effort towards the Dallas Wings served discover that her manufacturing interprets to the subsequent stage. When Ionescu went down, Layshia Clarendon, a former All-Star, took over level guard duties and offered veteran management. With Clarendon working the offense, the Liberty proved they might play on the velocity Coach Walt Hopkins preaches, ending second in the league in pace.
Ionescu’s return will give the Liberty much more choices. Her pick-and-roll expertise juiced the offense at Oregon, the place she collaborated with rolling bigs like Ruthy Hebard (now with the Chicago Sky) and Satou Sabally (now with Dallas).
It’s simple to image the group round Ionescu taking kind. Kia Nurse, whose season-long taking pictures stoop in 2020 got here after her breakthrough All-Star 2019 season, appears prone to return to kind. The perimeter appears to be like that Hopkins’s system generates ought to be extra fruitful with the sharpshooting of Rebecca Allen of Australia and Marine Johannes of France, each of whom opted out of the 2020 season over issues about touring to america through the pandemic.
Bigs: Natasha Howard or Nneka Ogwumike?
The group’s main heart from final 12 months, Amanda Zahui B., is a free agent. Kiah Stokes, who just lately signed an extension with the Liberty, is environment friendly across the rim however struggled from 3-point vary for a group that gave everybody the inexperienced gentle to shoot from deep.
The market forward presents a number of methods to deal with this deficiency, whereas probably pairing the youthful Ionescu with a veteran large with championship expertise. Natasha Howard, who was a bench participant on Minnesota Lynx championship groups after which an important a part of the Seattle Storm title winners in 2018 and 2020, is a free agent. She shot 35 % from 3-point vary final 12 months, whereas feasting on inside defenders worn down from making an attempt to cease Breanna Stewart. However Howard was the fourth offensive choice in Seattle, after Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, and she or he may resolve to affix the Liberty and turn out to be extra of a focus. She averaged solely 7.5 shot makes an attempt per sport in 2020.
Then there’s Nneka Ogwumike, the longtime Los Angeles Sparks ahead. Like Howard, she is a free agent, and like Howard, she was comparatively low on the pecking order in Sparks Coach Derek Fisher’s offense final 12 months, averaging a career-low 9.Three shot makes an attempt per sport. She’s additionally the president of the W.N.B.A. gamers’ union and, with a transfer to New York, would discover herself a subway journey away from its headquarters.
Whereas Seattle and Los Angeles have given Howard and Ogwumike core designations, that solely ensures compensation for the groups ought to the gamers pressure their means out. That was how Charles and Diggins-Smith landed with new groups final season. A lineup of Ionescu and both Howard or Ogwumike, with the opposite returning Liberty gamers like Nurse and Allen, can be the framework for a real contender.