New York Liberty Draft Preview
First 3 Selections in 2014
Last 3 First Round Picks (Pick, Year)
Areas of Improvement
With the arrival of proven WNBA winner Bill Laimbeer in 2013, the New York Liberty began the process of remaking the squad according to philosophy, style and system favored by former NBA (Pistons) and WNBA (Shock) champion. The Liberty's last season in Newark, NJ's Prudential Center, however, illustrated areas of improvement New York can now address as they welcome a return to the storied World's Most Famous Arena: Madison Square Garden in 2014.
"We're a sound defensive team, our field goal percentage was good, our rebounding was good, we do a nice job there, we're a pretty strong defensive team," said Laimbeer to WNBA.com. "We're pretty solid at center. The two-headed monster of Bone [Kesley] and Braxton (Kara) were difference makers for us last year and I expect good things from position again this season."
In selecting Bone, the physical 6-4 center out of Texas A&M with the fifth pick of the 2013 WNBA Draft, the Liberty did indeed shore up their post presence, augmented by the tireless work of Braxton and steady contributions of Plenette Pierson.
But when Essence Carson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in early June, New York's offense faltered and never really recovered.
"When Essence Carson went down last year it exposed our lack of depth at the guard position and on the perimeter," said Laimbeer. "Essence is back, we expect her to be participating fully in drills when we meet up and she is a very hard worker, so I have great hopes we'll be getting a strong player back on the court with Essence. But we need depth on the perimeter, we need guard depth, that much is obvious. We struggled to score the ball last year and our turnovers were way too high. We need to improve on that."
An immediate opportunity for improvement presents itself on Monday, April 14 when the 2014 WNBA Draft is held at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (8pm ET on ESPN2). Currently holding the No. 4, No. 14 and No. 26 picks, Laimbeer handicapped the 2014 Class.
"I'd say this is a more solid depth type of draft this year, as opposed to a marquee situation that we've had in some past years," said Laimbeer, who grabbed Bone (No. 5) and Toni Young (No. 7) in the first round of 2013 after the "Three to See" of Brittney Griner (Phoenix), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago) and Skylar Diggins (Tulsa) came off the board at 1-2-3. "The disparity between the best players in the draft and the others though is there. It's difficult to make the WNBA. There may be a better chance for some second-rounders to stick this year with opportunity to expand the rosters to 12, but in general, the best players are among those first rounders."
Among those first rounders, Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike (younger sister of Los Angeles Sparks All-Star and 2012 No. 1 pick Nneka) and Baylor's Odyssey Sims (NCAA title winner with Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner in 2011) are being touted as the likely first two picks. After that, however, the field is wide open, something Laimbeer is cautiously optimistic about.
"We've got no shot at Ogwumike [Chiney] or Sims [Odyssey]. They will be gone by the time we pick at No. 4," said Laimbeer. "It's up in the air what will happen, especially at No. 3 (currently held by San Antonio), but McBride [Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride] is a good combo guard who could help us in that area. Alyssa Thomas [Maryland forward] may also be there for us, and while she doesn't address that guard depth, the help on the perimeter we need, she is an interesting player too. Dolson [UConn center Stephanie] is in the mix there, but like I said, we're already pretty solid at center."
The uncertainty of the Draft -- who will move up and who will drop, what team will make a trade, either up or down the board -- is always a factor. Coming out of the Draft, Liberty fans can take solace in one crucial improvement heading into 2014: The Return to Madison Square Garden.
"The buzz around the team, the organization and fans couldn't be better about our returning to Madison Square Garden in 2014," said Laimbeer. "Newark were great hosts, did a nice job, but you cannot overestimate the excitement and energy for this upcoming season, with us going back the Garden where our fans can come out in force and support our team."
2013 (top 3 picks)
5. Kelsey Bone
7. Toni Young
15. Kamiko Williams
2012 (top 3 picks)
7. Kelly Cain
36. Katelan Redmon
10. Alex Montgomery
22. Angel Robinson
34. Mekia Valentine
1. Cappie Pondexter (16.9)
2. Essence Carson (14.3)
3. Plenette Pierson (11.6)
1. Kara Braxton (6.6)
2. Plenette Pierson (5.8)
3. Essence Carson (5.5))
1. Cappie Pondexter (4.0)
2. Plenette Pierson (2.5)
3. Leilani Mitchell (1.9)