Remembering The Tina Charles Era In New York

On Wednesday morning, news broke via Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press that the New York Liberty had traded franchise cornerstone Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Dallas Wings.

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In exchange, the Liberty got a lot of parts. Two players — Tayler Hill and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, plus a lot of draft picks, including the 9th, 12th, and 15th picks in this year’s draft.

With the draft just a couple of days away, I want to go ahead and let that play out before analyzing this trade and what it all means. But moving on from Charles is a huge moment for the Liberty, so let’s revisit her Liberty career and what she’s meant to this team.

Tina Charles’ Pre-Liberty Career

Before we can really examine what Charles brought to New York, let’s talk about her career before she arrived at Madison Square Garden.

Charles played her high school basketball at Christ the King High School in Queens, where her senior year saw her earn a ton of regional and national accolades. After that, she played four years for the UConn Huskies, helping them to a pair of National Championships and winning the Wooden Award as a senior.

In 2010, Charles was the first overall selection in the WNBA Draft, moving from UConn to the Connecticut Sun. The 2010 Rookie of the Year was immediately impactful, setting league records that year for rebounds and double-doubles.

For Charles’ first three years in the WNBA, she was coached by then-Sun and now-Mystics coach Mike Thibault. In his final year with the team, Charles won the 2012 league MVP award.

But with Thibault gone, the Sun’s 2013 season didn’t go so well, as the team finished 10-24. Connecticut, looking to acquire more young players, traded Charles to New York just before the 2014 WNBA Draft, giving up Kelsey Bone and a pair of first round picks.

Tina In New York

Tina Charles spent six seasons with the New York Liberty, and while the team never managed to win a title or even make the WNBA Finals with Charles, they did make three playoff appearances during Charles’ time with the franchise.

Of course, not winning a title shouldn’t define a player’s time with a team, so let’s talk about the things Charles did accomplish.

Charles made five All-Star appearances in New York, with the only non All-Star being the 2016 Olympic year, when there was no All-Star Game. She made three consecutive All-WNBA First Teams, and she led the league in points per game in 2016.

You can see a lot of the things that made Charles effective in this highlight video from 2017:

As you can see, at her best, Charles did great work down on the block, using her strength, footwork, and ability to make strong use of the glass on her shot attempts to be one of the WNBA’s top scorers.

Tina Charles has long been a good post scorer, but over her time in New York she also worked to shift the parameters of her offensive game, with her increasing her reliance on three-pointers beginning in 2016. She became the team’s all-time leading scorer in 2019.

On the other end of the floor, Charles finished in the top five in rebounding in each of her first four seasons with the Liberty, providing a reliable presence on the glass.

Off the court, Tina Charles should be acknowledged for her humanitarian efforts. Her Hopey’s Heart Foundation helps distribute defibrillators to schools to help prevent heart issues in young athletes. She also released a documentary last year about her father’s record store.

And on a personal level, Charles was the first professional athlete that I spoke to as a media member, after last year’s Liberty/Wings game in Dallas. After a tough loss to the Wings, Charles came out and spoke to the three of us who were there to hear from the Liberty, and I’ll never forget the combination of nervousness and excitement as I asked Charles a question.

To be fully transparent here, we can’t just talk about the things Charles did well. 2019 saw Charles’ numbers fall off, with her shooting below 40% for the first time in her career and posting her lowest points per game total since her rookie campaign. She finished with negative win shares for the first time in her career.

With this trade, Charles gets a chance to be on a very good team where she won’t be tasked with the same responsibilities she had in New York. Her usage rate will drop. Her efficiency will decrease. This is a move that should prolong Charles’ career and lead to her looking significantly more effective than she did last season.

Reactions To The Trade

Here’s a round up of some of the things being said about Charles on Twitter.

It’s a new era in New York Liberty basketball now with Charles gone. The team will have a lot of questions to answer during Friday’s draft, as they now have to replace one of the franchise’s best players ever.