Liberty

Just Getting Started: Sabrina Ionescu’s Historic Season By The Numbers

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Sabrina Ionescu has but a single figure in mind this week: one, the number of wins needed to close out Chicago. However, it’ll take a few more digits to understand her dominance.

The New York Liberty are in the WNBA playoffs for the second consecutive season. Last season they pushed eventual runner-up Phoenix to the brink of elimination, and this season they’ve already stunned Candace Parker and the defending champion Sky in the first game of the foes’ series.

Although the second game wasn’t quite as good for the Liberty, to put it mildly, Ionescu is more than ready to finish off the Sky in more-friendly Brooklyn.

There are many reasons why the Libs are on the verge of the semifinals. The hiring of new head coach Sandy Brondello, in-season acquisitions Crystal Dangerfield and Marine Johannes, the list runs on and on. But the biggest reason New York is in this position now is the play of third-year star Ionescu.

The former Oregon Duck battled injuries during her first two seasons in the W and struggled with inconsistent play to open the 2022 campaign. But with a few roster tweaks and some schematic changes, Ionescu began to blossom, showcasing her renowned all-around game to a historic WNBA first: a 500/200/200 season.

IT’S NOT HOW YOU START, BUT HOW YOU FINISH

This Liberty squad entered the season with a lot of hype and excitement, mainly due to the expectation that a healthy Ionescu would take the next step toward elite-level status.

At the start of the season, Ionescu struggled to find her groove offensively, and the Libs began the season 1-7. Around this time, New York gave Sabrina the responsibility of running the offense at point guard while also trying to showcase her explosive scoring ability.

Towards the end of May, the Liberty acquired free agent point guard Dangerfield, who Minnesota and Indiana had previously cut. Dangerfield’s arrival did not benefit anyone more than Ionescu.

Inserting Dangerfield into the starting lineup gave New York a pure point guard, one who can dish the basketball and probe the defense. This move allowed Ionescu to play off the ball, where she could drive, attack the rim, and get to the free throw line with much more regularity.

Since moving over to shooting guard, Ionescu scored over 20 points thirteen times while going for 30 or more on four occasions. With her improved play, she gained her first All-Star nod back in July.

NUMBERS GAME

Less than 30 seconds into the team’s August 6th loss to Phoenix, Sabrina did something she is used to: making history. With an assist to Dangerfield, Ionescu became the first player in WNBA history to record 500 points, 200 rebounds, and 200 assists in a single season.

Few players in league history have come close to reaching those numbers. Only Parker and Cappie Pondexter have reached 500 points, 150 rebounds, and 150 assists in a season, according to Across the Timeline.

Ionescu is averaging 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game this season. She is the only player in the league ranked in the top 15 in all three categories.

At the college level, Ionescu is the only player in NCAA history, men’s or women’s, to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists in a career.

THE FUTURE IS NOW

From an All-Star appearance to rewriting the record books, this is the kind of season we all expected from Ionescu, lifting New York from a lottery team to a playoff winner. Her unique combination of three-level scoring prowess, excellent vision, and leadership has everyone in the Big Apple excited about the present and the future.

If anyone is up to the challenge of closing out the defending champs Tuesday, it is Ionescu. One of the fiercest and most intense competitors in the league.

At only 24 years old, Ionescu is blossoming into the prime of her young career. With a talented nucleus of young stars, proven veterans, and a championship-winning head coach, exciting times are ahead in New York.

 

About Hamilton Neill

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