- The New York Liberty acquired 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones in the biggest trade of the off-season.
- Fellow NYC basketball star Kevin Durant previously told Insider Jones was his favorite WNBA player.
- “She reminds me of myself with her length and how she shoots the ball,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of her.”
The New York Liberty are officially home to one of the most lethal weapons the WNBA has to offer.
Jonquel Jones — the four-time WNBA All-Star and 2021 league MVP — is headed to the Big Apple thanks to a blockbuster three-team trade between the Liberty, Connecticut Sun, and Dallas Wings. With the ball-handling skills and shooting range of a guard, alongside the size, rebounding, and shot-blocking ability of a traditional big, the 6-foot-6 superstar is the epitome of a complete package on the basketball court.
That description may sound familiar, especially to folks in Brooklyn.
Jones has drawn comparisons to none other than Kevin Durant — the 2014 NBA MVP who shook up the basketball universe with a move to the Nets back in 2019. Some four years later, the player Durant cited as his favorite of all the WNBA’s stars is poised to share his home court at the Barclays Center.
“Jonquel Jones is the one that comes off top of mind,” Durant told Insider in 2021. “She reminds me of myself with her length and how she shoots the ball.
“I’m a huge fan of her,” he added.
It’s no surprise, then, that KD was among the first to welcome Jones to Brooklyn.
In a video shared on the Liberty’s social media accounts, Durant told the WNBA superstar that “we’re excited to have you here” in New York City.
“Can’t wait to watch you ball in the Barclays [Center],” he said into the camera. “It’s gonna be so much fun this summer, I can’t even wait.”
“Much love,” he added. “Welcome!”
—New York Liberty (@nyliberty) January 16, 2023
With a superstar on her way to Brooklyn, the Liberty put themselves in a position to win now
The No. 6 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft spent each of her first six WNBA seasons with the Connecticut Sun. In a farewell post to “such a great organization” and its “incredible fans,” Jones paid homage to the “countless memories” she’s made in Connecticut and noted that she “would never be the player and person that I am today” without her time with the Sun.
“I have done amazing things in my career, all while wearing Connecticut proudly across my chest,” she wrote. “Now, like all things, our journey together must come to an end. After careful thought and consideration I have decided to move on and begin the next chapter of my W career.”
“Please know that Connecticut will always have a special place in my heart,” Jones added.
The Freeport, Bahamas, native specifically requested the move to the Liberty this off-season, mere months after Connecticut came up short in the WNBA Finals for the second time in the last four seasons. Once she arrives in New York, Jones will join forces with a pair of young All-Stars — Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu — looking to expand on the Liberty’s postseason successes from last year.
“To say I’m excited would be a huge understatement!” Jones said in a statement released through her new franchise. “To the fans, future teammates, and everyone that has welcomed me to New York, thank you! I can’t wait to get this season going and show out in the Big Apple!!”
With the trade — which saw New York part ways with role players Rebecca Allen and Crystal Dangerfield as well as star Natasha Howard — the Liberty made themselves instant contenders for the 2023 title.
More firepower may be heading New York’s way
As The Next’s Jackie Powell explained in her analysis of the Jones trade, New York still has “$426,799 total cap space, which is enough space for one supermax player ($234,936) while leaving enough money to re-sign two of its most promising young players: Han Xu and Marine Johannès.
Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello and general manager Jonathan Kolb have laid the groundwork to tempt the WNBA’s most prolific talents to take a chance on New York. Last off-season, the franchise pursued Seattle Storm superstar Breanna Stewart — arguably the best player in women’s basketball today — with a swanky Los Angeles dinner that included the two-time WNBA champion, her wife, and their daughter, as well as Brondello and the Tsai family, who owns the Liberty as well as the Nets.
Stewart — a Syracuse, New York, native — ultimately chose to stay in the Emerald City on a one-year supermax deal. But in May, she told the Seattle Times’ Percy Allen that she expects “more dinners” during this off-season, when she’ll once again become a free agent and has already been rumored to be heading home to the Empire State.
“They have a lot of talent over there,” the 6-foot-4 forward said of the Liberty. “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
Stewart further fueled the rumors by sending out a cryptic tweet on Monday, less than a week before free agency officially begins.
—Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) January 16, 2023
But New York’s free agency targets don’t end there. During exit interviews last season, Brondello said she’s hopeful the Tsais’ ambitious vision for the franchise as well as their team’s top-notch facilities would act as selling points to superstars on the market.
She cited defensive intensity, aggression, and experience as her wish list for free agents headed to New York. Some players, including Laney, were a bit more specific in suggesting that their team go after a veteran point guard and a dominant big for 2023.
With the addition of Jones, the Liberty have already checked the big off the list. And when it comes to a veteran point guard, the very best of them has her eyes on New York, too.
The Next’s Howard Megdal reported Tuesday that Courtney Vandersloot — a four-time WNBA All-Star who has led the entire league in assists six times over the course of her career — has expressed interest in joining the Liberty in free agency. The feeling is mutual, according to Powell, who wrote that New York is focused on “improving their backcourt by finding a free agent who can distribute, create their own shot and be reliable defensively alongside Ionescu.”
Sure looks like Durant may have some more welcomes to dole out in the next few weeks. But regardless of who else winds up in Brooklyn, it’s clear the Liberty are starting this year far stronger than they ended the last.