A day after reconfiguring their team logo, the Liberty took a major step toward reconfiguring their entire roster.
They traded Tina Charles, the cornerstone of their franchise for the past six seasons and the franchise’s career points leader, to the Washington Mystics on Wednesday in a three-team deal. In return, they received the 12th pick in Friday’s WNBA Draft from Washington as well as the ninth and 15th picks from Dallas. The Liberty also received Tayler Hill from the Wings and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from the Mystics.
This means the Liberty have five of the first 15 picks in the draft, including the No. 1 pick, which they are expected to use on Oregon point guard Sabrina Ionescu, and the 13th pick.
Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb told Newsday on Wednesday that the Charles trade had been in the works for a while, back to the start of free agency, when it became evident that the team was looking to rebuild and Charles was looking to be on a contender.
“We have a new coaching staff and a lot of newness here,” Kolb said. “We were very direct with Tina about what we’re doing here and where we’re going and what we’re building. Tina, at his stage, is a really passionate player and competitor and is ready to win a championship.
“When you trade a future Hall of Famer, which is what Tina is, you have to figure out what does that look like going forward. Our coaching staff has been tremendous in our preparation for our draft. We think there are going to be players in those draft positions that we acquired that will be with us for a long time.”
In the past 13 months, the Liberty have acquired a new majority owner in Joe Tsai, a new home arena in Barclays Center, a new GM in Kolb and a new coach in Walt Hopkins.
The team now has a new plan and believes it can build a contender in a few years as the current elite WNBA teams such as Seattle and Washington push past their peak.
“The plan is we’ll be on the come-up as they are on the come-down,” Kolb said.
Hopkins, who came from the Minnesota Lynx staff, has a reputation for being strong in player development. A team full of young draft picks, centered around Ionescu, seems to be a perfect fit for his skill set.
“We are going to be a quality basketball product this season for sure, but we are building toward that ultimate goal,” Kolb said. “We’re developing players along the way. This was a real collaborative decision from the owners to the front office to the coaching staff . . . The coaching staff is ready for this challenge and ready for these players to come in.”
Kolb said the team is always looking to improve, so he did not rule out bundling a couple of his first-round picks to get a higher pick. “If we stay where we are at, we are happy,'' he said. "But we’re always willing to listen.''