After leaving fans trying to decipher her cryptic tweets in Taylor Swift style about where she would end up next season, Breanna Stewart has gone back to her home state of New York.
Stewart signed with the Liberty on Feb. 1, after spending the last six seasons with the Seattle Storm. Stewie brings an extensive resume to New York, including two WNBA championships, two championship MVP awards, and the 2022 scoring title. She is one of the greatest athletes the WNBA has ever seen, and she’s only 28, and just arguably made the biggest free agency move in WNBA history.
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Leading up to the start of free agency, the Liberty traded for forward Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun. Jones, who is a superstar in her own right, was a move no one saw coming, and bolstered a roster that is anchored by Sabrina Ionescu’s IQ and skill. They then added Stewart, and signed guard Courtney Vandersloot from the Chicago Sky, who is one of the best passers in the league.
New York gained pieces to make a deep playoff push, something they haven’t done since 2002, and have subsequently created a super team that people are eager to see take the court with one of the best starting fives in recent history. BetMGM gives the Liberty +150 odds to win the WNBA title next season.
“I think this group has a ton of potential,” said Stewart to ESPN after her signing. “I think there is a lot of amazing players. The selflessness is what’s going to help us set ourselves apart from everyone else.”
What’s next for the Storm?
The Storm, however, lost one of the best players to ever play for their franchise.
There is a lot that goes into getting players to sign and re-sign, and it isn’t like the Storm didn’t have the money to keep her. External factors played into Stewie’s decision. Stewart’s recently retired teammate Sue Bird speculated that Stewie would sign with New York on The Ringer’s NBA Show. Bird said, “She’s from Syracuse, which obviously is not New York City, but it makes a difference. It’s closer. Her wife is from Spain. It’s closer. She has a family now. Your priorities and what you need from a team start to shift and change because money is not the only thing at play.”
At the end of the day, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. That’s what happened to Seattle in the Stewie sweepstakes. It just didn’t work out.
One of the best things about Stewart and her play style is that she can play wherever she is needed. Her versatility is an asset that New York will capitalize on. She can shoot, she can make game-changing plays and she can play incredible defense.
This is the first time in six years that Seattle will not have Bird or Stewie. It’s not something they haven’t seen, as both players missed the 2019 season due to injury. The saving grace for Seattle is that they still have All-Star Jewell Loyd. Because of that, the Storm aren’t in rebuild status perse, but in an era of a lot of uncertainty. They have gaps in their starting five that might never be filled by an offseason signing. Loyd will be called on to anchor this team and step up into a larger role, something she has never had to do playing with both Stewie and Bird.
Additionally, if Mercedes Russell is healthy, she will be called on to play a larger role due to her experience. She hasn’t seen a lot of time in Seattle, but with no one to overshadow her, she could potentially put up numbers like she did at Tennessee.
It is evident that the Storm won’t be the same team they have been for over half a decade, which is crazy to think about as they have been a juggernaut for so long. They won’t finish at the top of the league like they usually do, but they won’t finish at the bottom of the league either. They are in basketball limbo, and they probably won’t leave it until people see them play. A playoff push is not out of the question, but if they don’t sign someone soon, the odds are slipping.
For New York though, their breakout season has been long anticipated. People thought Ionescu would be that deciding factor, but she couldn’t do it alone. The front office has built a team around their franchise player who will not only support her, but bring the level of play and poise to a higher standard. For the Liberty, anything short of a trip to the finals will be a disappointment.