AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Breaking Down New York Liberty’s 2019 Draft

On Wednesday night, the New York Liberty selected Louisville guard Asia Durr with the second pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft. They followed that up by picking Chinese center Han Xu in the second round and Utah forward Megan Huff in the third round.

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What do these picks mean for the upcoming WNBA season? Let’s take a look at all three players and what they can bring to the floor.

Round 1: Asia Durr

I’m not going to say much about Asia Durr here because I already wrote a pretty detailed account of why the Liberty needed her a couple of weeks ago. Click here and go check it out.

I will say this: I was worried this pick wouldn’t happen once Sabrina Ionescu went back to Oregon. The Las Vegas Aces chose Jackie Young with the first pick, but up until a couple days ago it seemed like the prevailing narrative was that Durr would be the Aces pick if Ionescu wasn’t available. I like Young, but I think Durr brings a little more to the floor shooting wise that helps this team out. Despite struggling more with her shot as a senior, Durr’s shown an ability to be lethal from outside, a thing the Liberty, who had the league’s second-lowest three-point field goal percentage in 2018, could really use.

Durr’s also showed adeptness in pick-and-rolls, scoring in the 83rd percentile last year as the pick-and-roll ball handler. She’s a strong finisher in transition — another area the Liberty struggled in — and a solid passer who can give the team another option for bringing the ball up the floor. Durr really expands what this team can do offensively, and she has the tools to be a solid defender as well. Again, I don’t want to rehash the things I already wrote, so go give the other article a read for a deeper dive on Durr’s fit here.

Round 2: Han Xu

I’d been seeing Han mocked to the Liberty in seemingly every site’s mock draft, so this far from a surprising pick. The Liberty, coming off a horrendous 2018 season, should be prioritizing talent acquisition over everything else, and Han was the best talent on the board when this pick came around. (Note: I wanted Iowa big Megan Gustafson here, who could have come in and contributed more early on, but Han’s got a higher upside.)

The big issue with Han and the thing that kept her out of the first round, is that her commitments to the Chinese national team are unclear, and while she said in a post-draft interview that she intended to be with the Liberty this year, she left the door open for those national team commitments to be an issue at some point. Because the WNBA plays a Summer schedule, international players often have to deal with commitments to their home country’s teams, which complicates things.

But if Han is here this year and remains a key part of this team moving forward, what are the Liberty getting in her?

Han, 19, was the youngest player in this year’s draft, and the whole idea that drafting a younger player means you have a multi-year project on your hands is probably true here. She’s tall — 6’9” — and in China she showed an ability to block shots and also step out and hit from the outside, but she’ll need to get stronger if she wants to hold her own against centers at this level. Ideally, you can imagine a situation where on the offensive end, Han serves as a stretch-five with Tina Charles playing closer to the basket, with Han spending more time as a rim protector/rebounder on the defensive end, but again — she’s 19 in a league where most rookies are coming in at 21 or 22, so it’s going to be a bit of a process. The more time she gets to spend with the Liberty, the faster that development is likely to occur, but I wouldn’t expect her in the starting lineup this year. If she’s in the league in 2019, she’ll likely be coming off the bench, providing some depth and trying to get used to the pace and the style of play.

Finding highlights of Han Xu was definitely not the easiest task, by the way, but here are a few to get you excited.

Here’s Han Xu blocking a shot. Size is important up front, and while the rotation here looks a little awkward (and Han was really far off the player she should have been defending), she shows some good instinct with her shot blocking and has the wingspan to get in there and swat away shots near the bucket. Watching defensive clips, I didn’t see much one-on-one defense in the post, so that’ll be something to work on, but hey — blocks are fun and she can get blocks!

Here’s another good defensive play. Comes over to help on the driver and the play results in the ball heading back the other way:

Offensively, Han can use her size around the basket to finish over other players, but the tape I’ve seen is definitely lacking right now in terms of an ability to command post touches and finish in traffic, but I like her chances at getting putbacks off offensive boards. Lots of potential here to be a big problem for the rest of the league for a long time.

Round 3: Megan Huff

I’m less familiar with Utah forward Megan Huff because I didn’t get to watch a ton of PAC-12 games last year, but I went back and watched some film and there’s some good stuff. Here’s a good sample:

Huff’s Synergy profile has some good stuff. 98th percentile in post ups and 74th in spot ups show that she’s capable of playing both inside and outside on the offensive end, and that kind of versatility will be useful if Huff wants to make this Liberty team out of training camp. Impressing on offense will be especially key because she ranked in just the 51st percentile defensively last season per Synergy, and while she did a good job defending post ups, she struggled defending in other situations, especially when guarding spot up shooters. Huff feels a little like a player who doesn’t have an ideal position at the next level, and while a larger WNBA would give her a chance to make a team and show the kind of impact she can have, I worry it’ll be an uphill battle to make it to the Liberty’s final roster.

12 players make a team’s final roster. If Han Xu comes over, we can assume that the other two rookies take up two of those spots. You’d have to imagine these players make the roster: Tina Charles, Kia Nurse, Amanda Zahui B, Shavonte Zellous, Bria Hartley, Brittany Boyd, Sugar Rodgers. That’s nine. Three spots left. Will Epiphanny Prince be back? Do you keep some of your veterans, or go younger? Rebecca Allen was last on the team in minutes per game last season, but she was re-signed earlier in the offseason, so she’s bound to make the team, right? And Kelly Faris was brought in on a training camp deal and could be impressive enough to cause some tough decisions.

Ultimately, watching video of Huff and digging into her skills, especially offensively, makes me hope there’s a place on this team for her, but we’ll see. Will definitely keep my eye on her in the preseason.