With the New York Liberty's 2023 WNBA Playoffs series coming up against the Connecticut Sun, the world will be watching to see if the Liberty can live up to their preseason billing as the biggest threat to the Las Vegas Aces' throne. Ahead of that series, we'll be making our Liberty predictions.
It was a whirlwind of an offseason for the Liberty as they revamped their roster in order to move into championship contender status this season. They already had two-fifths of their All-Star quintet in place with Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney. They added the other three by signing Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot in free agency and trading for Jonquel Jones.
The Liberty were challenged in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs against the Washington Mystics. The Mystics were a team that dealt with injuries all season but played scrappy and tough and they gave the Liberty a grueling two games in their series.
The Liberty's WNBA Playoffs series against the Sun is not set to tip-off until Sunday, but let's move on to our Liberty predictions.
2. The New York Liberty bench will outplay their counterparts by a wide margin
The Liberty may have plenty of star power, but part of what's made them such a dangerous team is the type of production they've gotten off their bench this season. The Liberty had two players who legitimately could've been in the Sixth Woman of the Year race in Marine Johannes and Kayla Thornton despite what the official voting tally looked like.
Thornton in particular was a throw-in, in the Jonquel Jones trade, but she's proven herself to be one of the Liberty's most important players this season. Helping anchor the second unit alongside those two is Stefanie Dolson who was a key member of the Chicago Sky's 2021 championship team. Dolson has settled into her reserve role after being a starter last season and she provides the Liberty with additional size.
Between those three players, the Liberty have a strong mix of both offense and defense off their bench. Johannes and Thornton could be starters on other teams. The Sun bench is no joke either. They had a potential Sixth Woman of the Year candidate themselves in DiJonai Carrington alongside Tyasha Harris and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Harris was the Sun's third leading scorer in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs against the Minnesota Lynx.
In the playoffs, games often come down to role players and the Liberty's group have been able to give a little more punch throughout the season. Their overall production may have taken a hit in the first round against the Mystics, but this is the series where they start playing like their regular season selves again.
1. Jonquel Jones will be the New York Liberty's best player through their series against the Connecticut Sun
As mentioned before, this Liberty team has no shortage of star power. Breanna Stewart is an MVP candidate and Sabrina Ionescu has been one of the most explosive players in the league this season. But the one player who has seen her production take a bit of hit has been Jonquel Jones.
Jones actually joined the Liberty before their major free agent haul. A former MVP and four-time All-Star, this was the first season in the past four that Jones was not selected to the All-Star team. Jones spent the early part of the season trying to find her rhythm with this Liberty team, and she was one of the key reasons why they were able to hold off the Mystics.
Jones was the Liberty's second-leading scorer in their WNBA Playoffs series against the Mystics and there's no reason why she can't replicate that feat against the Sun. The Sun's biggest answer to stopping Jones was her former teammate Brionna Jones who was lost for the season with an ACL injury.
The Sun frontline of Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner has been stellar all season but they just don't have the size to contend with Jones. Stewart will likely be the one having to matchup with Bonner and Ionescu and Betnijah Laney will have to contend with the defense of Natisha Hiedeman and Tiffany Hayes. Jones is the perfect player to have a big series for the Liberty.
It's up to the rest of the team to establish her early and continue to feed the post throughout the series. It will go a long way towards the Liberty defeating the Sun and advancing to the WNBA Finals.