WNBA free agency is just around the corner. The league has a new CBA with a ton of changes, but the biggest change in terms of figuring out free agency — limiting the number of times a player can be cored by a team — shouldn’t impact New York much, as Tina Charles still can be cored once by the team.
Let’s take a look at what free agency might look like for New York. Spoiler: This team’s got a lot of key players already under contract, so things shouldn’t get too eventful.
Charles is the biggest name for New York, and because the team’s allowed to core her one more time, it’s highly, highly unlikely that Charles isn’t wearing a Liberty uniform in 2020, especially since the team has reportedly made the decision to core Charles, which means that the team will have exclusive rights to negotiate with Charles
While she struggled at times in 2019, especially in terms of her scoring efficiency, Charles was still arguably the best player on this Liberty team and remains the key piece on this current roster if the Liberty expect to make a playoff push in 2020.
New head coach Walt Hopkins will need to figure out how to best use Charles. She shot the ball poorly last year, and maybe the best thing for her would be to get her closer to the basket. Charles told Nets Republic after last year’s Liberty/Wings game in Dallas that she was comfortable playing the five since she played that position so much earlier in her career, so maybe a good way to use Charles would be to stick her at the five full-time, with Amanda Zahui B going from a stretch five to a stretch four.
Of all the team’s free agents, Hartley is the one who I have the least idea about how to project, mainly because the team is expected to draft a point guard in Sabrina Ionescu.
If they do select Ionescu with the first pick, the guards on this team would be: Ionescu, Asia Durr, Kia Nurse, Brittany Boyd, and Marine Johannes. (Johannes is a free agent, but the team has extended a qualifying offer to her.)
Tanisha Wright’s retirement does mean that the Liberty have room to keep another guard, but with the amount of money Hartley would make and the glut of guards on this roster, I have no idea what to think about Hartley. I think she’d contribute more to the team than Boyd would, but Boyd is under contract, so…it’ll be tricky. My gut says Hartley somehow winds up back with the Liberty, but it’s hard to guarantee that.
Gray is one of three players that the Liberty have extended qualifying offers to per The Winsidr.
Last year, Gray filled in as a starter while Amanda Zahui B missed time and ultimately provided New York with a strong presence on the offensive glass. Among players to play in at least 20 games, Gray finished sixth in offensive rebounding rate. Her ability to generate second chances for the Liberty will be big off the bench this year, though the return of Kiah Stokes will make it tough to figure out what the rotation looks like.
Another qualifying offer player. Johannes is an exciting young guard from France, and we don’t know for sure if she’ll be with the team this year — it’s an Olympic year and she’s a key piece of Team France.
But Johannes is part of the Liberty’s future plans, so if she plays in the WNBA next year, she’ll be playing for New York. Johannes makes a ton of fun passes and shoots the ball well, so hopefully she’s around this season.
Raincock-Ekunwe took a bit to get going last year, but she brought a lot of energy to the court down the stretch, with double-digit points in two of New York’s final four games.
She’s a good rebounder. We’ll see what her role is this season, but the team extended a qualifying offer to her, which means she’s likely returning to New York and will get a chance to carve out some reserve minutes. I don’t really see her playing a huge role on this team just because of the roster numbers, but she can contribute if she gets minutes.
Outside Free Agents
Figuring out who might be available for New York to go after in free agency is interesting.
WNBA free agency isn’t usually a time with a ton of player movement and New York doesn’t have a ton of roster room, but some moves could happen. Here are a few of the bigger names to keep an eye on, because I don’t really see New York going after any of the second tier free agents based on how many roster spots the team already has filled:
Skylar Diggins-Smith: The Wings star was cored by the team, so the Liberty wouldn’t be able to sign her straight up, but Diggins-Smith told the Associated Press that she doesn’t plan to play for Dallas next year, which likely means she’ll be available via trade. And judging by last year’s Liz Cambage trade, if Diggins-Smith wants to play for New York, it shouldn’t take too much to make a trade happen.
Angel McCoughtry: The Atlanta Dream chose not to core McCoughtry, making her an unrestricted free agent. If the Liberty miss on SDS and want to add a veteran guard, McCoughtry would definitely be an option.
DeWanna Bonner: The Mercury star is an unrestricted free agent. I’m sure every team in the league would be interested in signing her if she chose to leave Phoenix.