This Week in Seafoam: The 2022 Season is Here
This Week in Seafoam: The 2022 Season is Here

This Week in Seafoam: The 2022 Season is Here

Welcome to This Week in Seafoam, a weekly look at what has and what will happen with the New York Liberty.

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In this edition, there’s been just one game to talk about, but we’ll also discuss the three more we have to look forward to this week.

Sabrina Ionescu is Sabrina Ionescu

Okay, let me explain that headline.

There are two Sabrina Ionescus. There’s the real life version, who is a very good player who has been plagued by injury and inconsistency in the W, but who has had some moments that make you think “wow.” And there’s the theoretical Ionescu, someone who a large portion of WNBA fans think is going to be a star and a potential MVP. Last year, there were glimpses of the theoretical Ionescu in the real Ionescu, but things didn’t fully coalesce.

But on Saturday, we got our first look at Ionescu this season and it looks like that theoretical Ionescu might also be the real Ionescu.

And, sure this point —

— is a fair one to make, but Ionescu feels notably more healthy this year. I could be wrong, but I think this is the Ionescu that people have been waiting on.

In the opening game, Ionescu had a true shooting percentage of 66.2. For some perspective, in 30 games last year, she only had seven with a higher true shooting percentage. That’s mostly just a fun stat that doesn’t prove anything, but it’s something I do want to keep an eye on as the season progresses: can Ionescu avoid having some of those awful shooting nights she had last year, particularly in June?

Lorela Cubaj’s Impact

The Liberty traded up to get Georgia Tech big Lorela Cubaj, so you had to assume she’d be part of this team. Why trade up for someone and then cut/not use them? (The previous sentence should be read in a snarky voice while you look at the Las Vegas Aces 2022 draft picks.)

Cubaj entered the WNBA with two big positives and one big negative. The good stuff: she was an elite defender in college who could defend multiple positions and also was one of the best passing bigs in the country. The bad: per CBB Analytics, Cubaj’s offense was an issue. She was in the 54th percentile in points per 40 minutes and the 43rd percentile in effective field goal percentage. She shot just 39.2% on two-point attempts and was 5.3% below average on shots in the paint.

But New York didn’t need Cubaj to score on Saturday. The team needed her to do the two things she was good at: defend and make smart plays in the flow of the offense. She wound up with three turnovers, but her defensive effort was obvious:

Excited to see what Cubaj does as the season progresses.

Other Notes

  • Natasha Howard was 3-for-7 from deep. By bringing in Stef Dolson to play the five, the Liberty get to use Howard in an offensive role that makes more sense for her. She’ll have more chances to shoot the ball in the flow of the offense and not just in the… whatever the Walt Hopkins system was.
  • Jocelyn Willoughby and AD were both back after missing last season. Willoughby started and played 29 minutes. She was 5-for-10 from the floor and had five rebounds and two steals. I think it’s notable that Willoughby is already ahead of Michaela Onyenwere in the rotation. As for AD, they played just five minutes and recorded zero stats. I expect to see them slowly ramped up into full action, so I’ll reserve judgment on how their game went.
  • It’ll be interesting to see how Betnijah Laney and DiDi Richards fit into this lineup. Laney likely pushes Willoughby to the bench? As for DiDi, she has a lot of positional versatility. She played point in her final year at Baylor and also has the defensive ability to guard the 1-4, so Sandy Brondello should be able to find minutes for me. Richards told Nets Republic’s Myles Ehrlich that she is “hoping that I’m able to do whatever she needs me to do whenever she needs” in terms of how Richards will be deployed on this team.
  • Stef Dolson was a -12, the worst plus/minus on the team. I think it’s going to take some adjusting for these players, who were used to playing in a much different system last year, to get used to playing with a more traditional center like Dolson.

What’s On Deck For The Libs?

Wednesday 5/11: @ Chicago

Friday 5/13: vs Indiana

Sunday 5/15: vs Dallas

Facing the Sky on the road on Wednesday will be tough, but with home games against Indiana and Dallas after that, the Liberty should view anything other than a 2-1 record this week as a failure.

But nothing is easy in the WNBA. Indiana has shown that they’re a feisty team. And Dallas was bad in Game 1, but was a playoff team last year and has an offense that usually seems capable of scoring on anyone, though things were stilted on Saturday.