Liberty Mulls Over Options As Trade Deadline Looms
Added by Darius Amos on August 3, 2011.
We saw the madness just last week in baseball. The NBA was in a frenzy when the date approached this past winter. So what ramifications does the trade deadline bring to teams in the WNBA? As I’m slowly learning, not much.
With the last day for teams to swap players less than two weeks away, Aug. 15 to be exact, you would think those in playoff contention are in a panic as they thumb through their rosters picking out sore spots. Yes, it happens to an extent, but no, general managers aren’t quick to push that panic button. In reality, GMs don’t have to rely on trades to sure up rosters.
At this point in the season, the better teams have already locked up their lineups. It seems as if any dire needs are in backup roles, many of which can be solved through free agency. That’s how New York appears to answer its questions.
Let’s look at what Liberty head coach/general manager John Whisenant has done with his roster over the course of the season. He has tinkered with that 11th spot all year long, trying out one big forward after another.
Rookie Jessica Breland had first crack, playing in nine games before she was waived. Then came Felicia Chester, a rookie free agent who lasted just four games under Whisenant. Unsatisfied, the Liberty waived Chester in favor of 6-6 rookie Ta’Shia Phillips. She’s still untested, but Phillips’ height and size gives the Liberty a nice option behind Kia Vaughn and Quanitra Hollingsworth, particularly with bigs like Connecticut’s Tina Charles, Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles and Michelle Snow, and Indiana’s Tangela Smith and Jessica Davenport as the likely opponents in the playoffs. And let’s face it, Phillips is probably a better option than whatever backup center is out there, and she comes at no cost.
With extra size addressed, the only logical areas where the Liberty might improve are the backup small forward and point guard. It seems that now, starters Nicole Powell and Leilani Mitchell are at the level we hoped when the season started.
Powell is on the verge of recapturing the championship-form she had with Sacramento, but it’s a little thin behind her. Rookie Alex Montgomery has some speed but hasn’t displayed enough discipline to guard slashers on the wing. Sidney Spencer can play the guard and forward spots, too, but she’s been slowed by back spasms. She’s good for a spot-up three, but she isn’t the solution for defending or creating a shot.
A sterling 12-point performance (4 for 4 from 3-point land in the fourth quarter) in the Lib’s win over Atlanta last night marked the second straight strong outing for Mitchell. I’ll admit: I came down hard on her earlier this season for not showing her shooting skills, but she’s definitely swayed my opinion in the past couple of games. What I’m a little concern with is the situation when Mitchell comes out of a game.
Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson are taking most of the backup point guard duties, but let’s face it, the Liberty are much better suited when those two All-Stars are at their natural positions. But rookie Sydney Colson is slowly falling out of Whisenant’s favor, perhaps because of her inconsistent play. We’ve seen Colson ignite the team and those packed into the Prudential Center, but she’s also left many fans scratching their heads and asking how she can make some of the mistakes that she has. I’m not sure how much trust Whisenant, and most of the fans for that matter, will have in Colson come playoff time.
There have been a few whispers of bringing in a point guard like LA’s Ticha Penicheiro, who already has a relationship with Whisenant from their Sacramento days. A tandem of Mitchell and Penicheiro would greatly benefit Pondexter and Carson, and it would probably require no more than a future draft pick. But the Sparks likely aren’t giving up yet – they are not totally out of the race, and Candace Parker is set to return from injury soon.
I have to admit that Mitchell’s improved play of late also ups her worth, which sort of concerned me because she could have been used as trade bait. But as I noted earlier, I believe the Liberty addressed their need for another post player, and Powell’s re-emergence has quieted the need for another forward.
My guesses are the Liberty hold tight and go into battle with the team that’s already assembled. Is it a championship-caliber roster? As I thumb through the names, I don’t see any major sore spots.