NEW YORK — The New York Liberty set off the first fireworks of WNBA free agency this week when they traded the No. 6 overall pick in this spring’s WNBA draft, along with 2022 All-Star Natasha Howard and reserve players Rebecca Allen and Crystal Dangerfield, for 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones.
Following back-to-back first-round playoff losses, the Liberty were seen around the WNBA as likely to be aggressive this offseason. And after courting two-time WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart in free agency in 2021 before she ultimately returned to Seattle, the Liberty are seen as top candidates to land Stewart in free agency.
The trade for Jones, a rangy forward/center who can anchor a defense and score at a high level, affirmed New York as key players in WNBA free agency this winter.
“The Liberty want to be in the top echelon of the WNBA, and by (making this trade), they are showing that regardless of what different free agents decide, they want to be in that position,” said Locked On Women’s Basketball co-host Jackie Powell.
Free agency officially begins Jan. 21, and New York still has cap space to sign Stewart should she choose to leave the Storm.
They are also reportedly pursuing All-Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot, according to Locked On Women’s Basketball co-host Howard Megdal, who was the first to report there is "mutual interest" between the Liberty and Vandersloot.
Those moves would bolster what has already become a solid team during the early years of Sabrina Ionescu’s career, but the trade for Jones this week cements them as WNBA title contenders regardless of what comes next.
“If Breanna Stewart does not come and Courtney Vandersloot does not come, I think there’s maybe a little more of a learning curve,” said Megdal on the podcast. “But no Breanna Stewart gives (Jones) a little more room to operate as well, so there’s a version where I think that works very well too. I just think the floor now for the New York Liberty is a top-four seed.”