Six Potential Draft Picks for the New York Liberty

Six Potential Draft Picks for the New York Liberty

The WNBA Draft is right around the corner (April 11 at 7:00pm on ESPN). With South Carolina’s win over UConn on Monday night, March Madness is behind us and the New York Liberty are just days away from the fifth overall pick in the 2022 draft. Here’s a breakdown of six potential players that could be taken by New York.

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The overall consensus is that Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, and Ole Miss’ Shakira Austin will be the top three players taken according to the league’s mock draft summary. After that, the Indiana Fever hold the fourth overall pick followed by the New York’s pick.

Do the New York Liberty draft based on need or best available? Here are six different players that can bring unique skillsets to Brooklyn this summer.

Naz Hillmon, 6’2 PF, Michigan

Hillmon averaged 21 points per game (PPG) and 9.6 rebounds per game (RPG) in her senior year with the Wolverines. A strong rebounder with a solid back-to-the-basket game, Hillmon would enable Natasha Howard to play more of an outside game. On the other hand, pairing up with Stef Dolson could see Hillmon blossom as a defensive stopper inside. Her ability to run the floor in a more uptempo game would be a solid addition to the Liberty’s post rotation.

Current WNBA player comparison: Elizabeth Williams (Sun ’15, Dream ’16-’21, Mystics ’22)

Weaknesses: Lack of an outside shot, physicality, and conditioning

Sika Koné, 6’3 PF, Mali

In Mali’s loss to France in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, Koné brought in 26 points (10-10 FG), 9 rebounds, and 5 steals. Koné’s strengths lie in her ability to drive to the basket and dominate inside the paint. Furthermore, her ability to create her own shot is a thing of beauty. At just 19 years old, Koné can be a long-term prospect for the Liberty. An early MCL injury had Koné missing the WNBA season, but new reports suggests she would be ready to play, potentially even by the start of the season in early May.

Previous WNBA player comparison: Sancho Lyttle (Comets ’05-’08, Dream ’09-’17, Mercury ’18-’19)

Weaknesses: Defense, lack of an outside shot, maturity

Nyara Sabally, 6’4 PF/C, Oregon (Redshirt junior)

Satou Sabally’s younger sister is potentially the best all-around post player in this year’s class, after Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. Sabally averaged 15.4 PPG and 7.8 RPG in her senior season while shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Her past history of injuries can be a red flag. However, the Liberty can afford to bank on developing Sabally while they have a frontcourt rotation Howard, Dolson, Michaela Onyenwere, Kylee Shook, Rebecca Allen, and Jocelyn Willoughby in the post. Sabally can create her own shot, drive through the lane, bang inside the post, and has a nice 15-foot jump shot. Furthermore, her ability to crash the boards and defend inside is a strong asset. Sabally could be worth the gamble to draft on a Liberty roster that already has more depth than it did in 2021.

Current WNBA player comparison: Myisha Hines-Allen (Mystics ’18 – present)

Weaknesses: Injury history, running the floor, conditioning

Nia Clouden, 5’8 PG/SG, Michigan State

It shouldn’t be the assumption that the Liberty will draft a post player. The addition of Stef Dolson and re-signing Rebecca Allen gives them depth in the post. There’s still some uncertainty on whether Marine Johannés is coming over, as well as the long-term health and conditioning of Asia Durr. If neither Johannés nor Durr are available, the Liberty shorthanded at the guard spot, especially after they waived Jaz Jones earlier this offseason. Enter Michigan State’s Nia Clouden. Clouden’s ability to run point or work off-the-ball could be something head coach Sandy Brondello is looking for. Clouden averaged 20 PPG, plus just over 4 RPG and 4 assists per game (APG), all while shooting nearly 40 percent from long range during her final season. She’s a high volume shooter that can also handle the ball and run the floor, skills that can quickly translate at the next level.

Current WNBA player comparison: Kristi Toliver (Sky ’09, Sparks ’10-’16 & ’20-present, Mystics ’17-’19)

Weaknesses: Defense, turnovers

Veronica Burton, 5’9 PG, Northwestern

Like with drafting Clouden, the same can be said in regards to take Northwestern’s Veronica Burton. However, Burton is more of a “true” point guard that would be able to take pressure off of Sabrina Ionescu. Burton averaged 17.8 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 4 (!) steals per game (SPG) in her senior season. For the second consecutive season, she led the NCAA in SPG. Enabling Ionescu to slide over to the shooting guard position for stretches can allow the young Liberty centerpiece the ability to score more. This could also ease the offensive burden off of Howard and Betnijah Laney. One missing piece for the Liberty in 2021 was having a natural point guard available to back-up Ionescu. Burton is the best player in this draft that fills that archetype.

Current WNBA player comparison: Jasmine Thomas (Mystics ’11-’12, Dream ’13-’14, Sun ’15-present)

Weaknesses: Three-point shooting, turnovers

Lorela Cubaj, 6’4 PF/C, Georgia Tech

Cubaj had a poor showing in the recent ACC tournament, going scoreless against Wake Forest and only dropping 4 points in Georgia Tech’s loss to Notre Dame. Georgia Tech’s first round exit from the NCAA tournament didn’t help either. In their elimination loss to Kansas, Cubaj put up just 8 points and 11 rebounds. Despite this, Cubaj still averaged a double-double in her senior season, with 10.1 PPG and 11.1 RPG. A top rebounder with a flair for a defensive presence inside and a master at the pick-and-roll, Cubaj could be the Liberty’s pick if Brondello and Kolb want someone to clog the paint and allow Howard and Dolson to float more on the outside.

Former WNBA player comparison: Tammy Sutton-Brown (Charlotte Sting ’01-’06, Fever ’07-’12)

Weaknesses: Post-up game, midrange shot, athleticism