How New York Liberty Could Get Over the Hump | A Look at Their 2024 WNBA Title Odds

How New York Liberty Could Get Over the Hump | A Look at Their 2024 WNBA Title Odds article feature image

Courtney Vandersloot #22, Jonquel Jones #35, Betnijah Laney #44, Breanna Stewart #30 and Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty look on in the second quarter against the Las Vegas Aces during Game Four of the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

You can't really call this season a failure… can you?!?

The New York Liberty did what many expected them to do leading into the season, at the midway point, ahead of the playoffs, and before the WNBA Finals: Make it to the championship and lose to the Las Vegas Aces.

That was always the expectation.

Before the season began, the Aces were slight favorites to win it all, a number that lightly grew and somewhat fluctuated all spring and summer long, and ahead of the finals, the Liberty were 2-to-1 underdogs.

And even after being outscored by a combined 45 points across Games 1 and 2 in Las Vegas, the Liberty rebounded to win Game 3, decisively, 87-73 at home, where the Aces lost starting point guard Chelsea Gray and center Kiah Stokes due to foot injuries.

Fitting that of what became the nine times the Aces and Liberty played this year, the final one would be the only one that was decidedly close, decided by fewer than nine points, and decided in the game's final seconds — but the Liberty lost, 70-69.

The Liberty have still never won a title in five chances — this being their first since 2002 — and no team in the W, after trailing 2-0, has won or even forced a Game 5 in the WNBA Finals.

So did the Liberty fail? Depends on your view, but with the added context of the Aces missing two starters (and Candace Parker) and still losing on your home floor — squandering an 11-point second-half lead in the process — you might be swayed in a certain direction if you weren't already.

But all that said, we're expecting the Liberty to make another aggressive crack at it in 2024, where FanDuel already lists them as +240 to win the title, only behind — you guessed it — the Aces, who are favored to three-peat at +140. Next closest are the Connecticut Sun and Dallas Wings at +950 each, both of whom lost in their respective conference finals this year to the eventual finals teams.

And in anticipation of making a run at the 2024 title, the Liberty have to do that with primarily one team in mind: The Aces. We'll breakdown the off-season portion of this shortly, but the key thing here is that the Liberty, while seemingly deeper than the Aces — or at least not as top heavy — they simply didn't play well enough in three out of four finals games, and for some, even longer than that. We can do the cute advanced numbers, but for two players in particular, there's no need.

Regular Season Averages

Breanna Stewart: 23.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 47/36/85 shooting
Sabrina Ionescu: 17.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.4 apg, 42/45/87 shooting

Playoff Averages

Breanna Stewart: 18.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 36/20/87 shooting
Sabrina Ionescu: 13.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.7 apg, 39/40/91 shooting

It just is what it is. And on top of that, Betnijah Laney — who had been excellent for two months before the Finals, fell back down to earth, Courtney Vandersloot was overtaxed defensively while generally inconsistent offensively — specifically in Games 1 and 2 — and Jonquel Jones was really the only star who brought it consistently in the Finals, minus a six-point performance in Game 4 — though she had 11 rebounds and an 83 defensive rating, best on the team.

Per Spotrac, the Liberty have pending free agents this offseason, led by Stewart and Jones, both of whom the team will presumably try to retain. Also slated to hit free agency are Stefanie Dolson, Jocelyn Willoughby and Marine Johannes.

For the Aces, the aforementioned (and still injured) Parker is the biggest name ready to hit the market, if she decides to continue her playing career. Scheduled to join her in free agency includes Stokes, as well as reserves Sidney Colson, Riquna Williams, and Game 4 revelation Cayla George.

Her Hoop Stats pencils in the Liberty at having $484,670 in guaranteed salaries for next season, with another $703,803 in space — third most in the WNBA — though, a healthy portion of that could be devoted to retaining at least Stewart and Jones.

Each team's salary cap figure for next season is reportedly $1,463,000, with max contracts going up to $208,219, and supermax deals are slotted at $241,984. Presumably, the Liberty should have the financial ability to keep Stewart and Jones while having the ability to add other pieces. Part of this is improving the roster, but part of this is also just, yanno, playing better — but that's sports.

It's the most boring option to ponder, but running it back could serve you well, and continuity does matter — just look at the back-to-back champs. The Liberty aren't a ridiculously young team, but Ionescu, 25, is clearly ascending and now has a Finals run under her belt. If Stewart and Jones are brought back, they're both 29 and are still in their respective athletic primes, even if Jones isn't putting up her Connecticut Sun numbers (she doesn't have to).

Prospect-wise, the team also has 6-foot-5 big Nyara Sabally — the fifth overall pick in the 2022 Draft who missed her rookie year with a torn ACL — who logged 33 games as a rookie this regular season. The Liberty also, for now, have the No. 11 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, which could be used as a trade chip or as a cost-effective swing at an instant rotation player.

But the reason I think laying a +240 future on the Liberty is their off-season ambition. There are many standout players scheduled to hit free agency in 2024, including: Elena Delle Donne, Kahleah Copper, Natasha Cloud, Skylar Diggins-Smith, DeWanna Bonner, Brittney Griner, Brionna Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, and others.

To me, if you're looking at the Liberty starting five alone, the spot you'd want to upgrade is at point guard for Courtney Vandersloot, at the very least, particularly because of defense. Ionescu is a cornerstone, Vandersloot is 34, and while both struggled defensively against the Aces, you're keeping the former no matter what.

Cloud is the perfect player to slot in next to Ionescu, but it would theoretically be a large financial commitment if the Liberty, but one that could result in a championship, so long as the pieces around are compatible and health prevails.

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