There’s a ton of buzz surrounding the 2020 New York Liberty, in large part because of the addition of Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu and the upcoming third season of 2019 All-Star Kia Nurse. But one name hasn’t been as present in talks about the upside of the Liberty, and that name is second-year guard Asia Durr, who the team selected with the second overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft.
As a rookie, Durr was limited to 18 games last season because of what was then described as a groin injury. Right after the season ended, Durr had hip surgery, and during the Liberty’s virtual draft party, Durr appeared and said she was fully recovered from that surgery.
Let’s take Durr at her word there, because I see no reason not to. What can we expect from a healthy Asia Durr this year?
We can start by looking back at her rookie campaign.
Asia Durr’s Rookie Season Was Better Than You Thought
Asia Durr’s name was lost in the discussion of the league’s best rookie in 2019 because of injuries and because three rookies in particular — Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier, Dallas’s Arike Ogunbowale, and Indiana’s Teaira McCowan — had incredible first seasons.
But Durr was no slouch. In her 18 games, she averaged 9.7 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 rebounds per game. She struggled from three, hititng just 29.4 percent of her 2.8 attempts per game, but made up for that by being very inefficient inside the three-point arc, as she hit 55.4% of her two-point attempts. Durr didn’t play enough to qualify for the league leaderboard on two-point percentage, but she would have ranked seventh if she had kept that efficiency up over a longer stretch, which would have put her second to Kristi Toliver among guards.
A thing about Durr that really pops when you watch her is her ability to get to the hoop with the basketball in her hands, something that should benefit a 2020 Liberty team that projects to play with four — or even five — players out on the perimeter and a lot of room for guards to drive inside. On this play, Durr gets the ball dished to her out of the paint from Kia Nurse, which puts Durr one-on-one here with Minnesota’s Stephanie Talbot — now a member of the Liberty, though she’ll sit out the 2020 season. Durr’s able to use the space in front of her and her speed to get past Talbot, then get into the lane. Durr’s an excellent finisher near the basket, using her great body control to find her spots and get a well-placed shot up.
Durr also excelled in the pick-and-roll. Per Synergy, her possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler resulted in 0.913 points per possession, which was good for the 91st percentile in the league — more on that later, though.
She’s also able to use all these same skills to score in transition:
Her quickness here allows her to get down the floor in a hurry over on the wing, allowing Tanisha Wright to fire the long shot over her way. From there, she does what we should expect Asia Durr to do based on her numbers from last year: she weaves into the paint and somehow finds the space to get a pretty easy finger roll up at the basket.
Where Durr struggled was shooting, both off screens and spot up looks. Synergy has her off screen possessions logged in the 29th percentile and spot ups in the 34th, neither of which are good at all for a two-guard who needs to be able to be an efficient off-ball scorer.
In particular, Durr’s catch-and-shoot opportunities resulted in numbers that were far below expectation:
For what Walt Hopkins wants to do with this team in terms of pace and space will require Durr to up these numbers. Entering her second season, her ability to convert jump shots into points is probably the biggest question mark surrounding her game.
What’s Next For Durr?
We can probably go ahead and pencil Asia Durr in as the starting two-guard in what’s essentially going to be a three-guard starting lineup again this year, with Sabrina Ionescu at the point and Kia Nurse technically playing small forward again. That’s a lineup that features multiple players who can handle the rock and some really good pick-and-roll players.
In fact, we should see a LOT of pick-and-rolls this year, considering how good both Ionescu and Durr are at running it, and at how well Amanda Zahui B.performed as a roll big last year. This offense is expected to shoot a lot of threes, but I’d also expect them to run a ton of these pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops to take advantage of some of the team’s natural strengths. With Ionescu, it’s her otherworldly passing ability, especially out of situations like this. For Durr, it’s how using picks can open up space for her to drive to the basket, using her incredible touch to convert at the hoop.
But while her prowess as a driver matters, the next big step in Durr’s development on the offensive end has to be getting her three to fall. The upgrade at point guard from the relative non-shooters who manned the spot last year to the dangerous Ionescu should force the defense to account more for that spot, which can open Durr up to easier catch-and-shoot looks, but she has to make opposing teams pay on those looks.
Durr’s three-point percentage since she arrived at Louisville looks like this:
- Freshman: 36.1%
- Sophomore: 40.5%
- Junior: 41.5%
- Senior: 34.3%
- WNBA Rookie: 29.4%
The trend over the past two years is discouraging, but Durr did have two campaigns as a high-percentage shooter with the Cardinals, and it’s probably no coincidence that her worst year there was also her only collegiate year with a usage rate over 30 percent. Durr’s never going to see her usage that high with the Liberty, so in a smaller role as the No. 3 scorer on the floor, she should have a good chance of showing positive regression as a shooter.
And if Durr can even get that three-point shooting up to the mid 30s, she becomes an even more dangerous player, someone capable of scoring at every level and forcing all kinds of adjustments from the defense. The Liberty need that. We’ll see when the season arrives if Durr can bring it to them.