New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu — All the pieces that you must find out about her WNBA debut

As Sabrina Ionescu transitions from the colourful inexperienced of the Oregon Geese to the seafoam inexperienced of the New York Liberty for the 2020 WNBA season, some issues really feel fairly acquainted for her. Ionescu, the No. 1 choose in April’s draft, is considered one of seven rookies with the Liberty this season.

“You realize, it jogs my memory a number of my freshman yr at Oregon as a result of we had seven freshmen,” she mentioned. “The power to study and adapt and probably not know any higher. We’re enjoying with no stress, actually. Nobody expects us to be excellent. I believe having that underdog mentality that we’re all going to have, it will assist us. Perhaps groups are gonna overlook us.”

That is not probably — not with the highest choose coming into the league after redefining faculty basketball. Final we noticed Ionescu on courtroom, she was main Oregon to the Pac-12 match title. The coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 NCAA match and delayed the Might begin of the WNBA season. Now Ionescu makes her skilled debut Saturday (ESPN, midday ET) in opposition to the Seattle Storm, the league favorites on this shortened, 22-game season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

How will you watch Ionescu and the Liberty this season?

Beginning Saturday, the Liberty will play 5 regular-season video games on ESPN networks. The opposite video games are vs. Phoenix on Aug. 2 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET), vs. Washington on Aug. 7 (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), vs. Las Vegas on Aug. 9 (ESPN, three p.m. ET) and vs. Los Angeles on Aug. 11 (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

The Liberty will seem 10 occasions on CBS Sports activities Community and as soon as on CBS. Different video games might be streamed on WNBA League Go, which is obtainable through subscription.

What sort of stats ought to we anticipate from Ionescu this season?

We are able to get a tough estimate by translating her efficiency at Oregon to its WNBA equivalents, based mostly on how the stats of previous rookies have carried over. We additionally adjusted for Ionescu’s probably massive function on the Liberty’s rookie-heavy roster.

First, we’ve to guess how a lot Ionescu will play. We went with 34 minutes per sport, a tad lower than what No. 1 choose Breanna Stewart performed as a rookie in 2016 (34.7 MPG) and much like probably the most minutes we have seen a rookie guard common in latest reminiscence (Odyssey Sims, who performed 34.Four MPG in 2014).

Primarily based on that and New York’s tempo of play final season, the estimates for Ionescu are 16.7 PPG, APG and 4.9 RPG. Though that may not sound almost as dominant as Ionescu’s near-triple-double averages throughout her senior season at Oregon (17.5 PPG, 9.1 APG and eight.6 RPG), these projected numbers could be historic manufacturing for a WNBA rookie.

Per, APG would tie Sue Fowl for probably the most by a WNBA rookie since Ticha Penicheiro averaged 7.5 in 1998. Just one different rookie (Temeka Johnson in 2005) has averaged assists. Of the three, solely Fowl (14.Four PPG) averaged double-digit scoring. Meaning Ionescu might present the very best mixture of scoring and playmaking ever by a WNBA rookie. — ESPN’s Kevin Pelton

What ought to we anticipate from the Liberty this season?

With a lot youth, the skin expectations for the Liberty, as Ionescu mentioned, aren’t excessive. Most mission them to complete final within the 12-team league.

However Ionescu and the Liberty aren’t fearful about projections. They’re getting used to 1 one other, new coach Walt Hopkins and a season within the “bubble,” which New York normal supervisor Jonathan Kolb thinks will assist them, because the campus-like setting may remind them a bit of faculty.

Ionescu sees a number of similarity thus far between how the Liberty will play and the way Oregon performed beneath coach Kelly Graves.

“Simply with the ability to unfold the ground and have shooters,” Ionescu mentioned. “Simply having the ability play, learn and react and never essentially should name a play each time down. That is the liberty I used to be given at Oregon, and I believe that is what helped us be so profitable.”

The opposite rookies for New York are guard Jazmine Jones (Louisville), ahead/guard Jocelyn Willoughby (Virginia) and forwards Joyner Holmes (Texas), Leaonna Odom (Duke), Kylee Shook (Louisville) and Megan Walker (UConn). Guard Layshia Clarendon, who at 29 is getting into her eighth season, is the oldest participant on the roster. Heart Amanda Zahui B., who has 5 years’ expertise, heart Kiah Stokes (4) and guard Kia Nurse (two) are the opposite veterans.

Ionescu mentioned she took benefit of the previous few months to observe video of her teammates from their faculty or WNBA careers in order that as some extent guard, she would know a few of their tendencies. She is ready to shoulder a number of the management, regardless of being a rookie.

“One of many issues that makes her so particular is she’s not going to pressure her approach right into a management function,” Hopkins mentioned. “She’s gonna lead within the ways in which she feels are applicable. She’s not afraid to again off and permit a distinct voice on a given day. She does such an excellent job of each overt and covert management methods.

“Having all that have at Oregon, being any individual who got here in proper off the bat, [she] discovered a option to lead. And because the years went on, she discovered new methods to guide and grew into completely different roles. I do not suppose that is going to be any completely different. She’s actually particular in that regard.”

Throughout Ionescu’s freshman season at Oregon, the Geese went 8-10 within the Pac-12 and have been seeded No. 10 however jelled within the NCAA match and reached the Elite Eight. There have been rising pains for the Geese, however issues turned out properly. (They made the Elite Eight in 2018, too, and superior to their first Closing 4 in 2019). That is an excellent reminiscence for Ionescu to attract on for her WNBA rookie season. She is aware of there might be ups and downs for the Liberty, too.

“There’s going to be video games the place issues aren’t going properly, and you are not going to win,” she mentioned. “Having that understanding goes to assist me this yr.”

Ought to we anticipate to see Ionescu tally triple-doubles?

Ionescu had 26 triple-doubles at Oregon, greater than the full of some other males’s or girls’s faculty participant. Her remaining one got here on Feb. 24 in a victory at Stanford after she spoke earlier within the day at a memorial service for Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. That evening, Ionescu grew to become the primary participant to hit the two,000-point/1,000-rebound/1,000-assist mark when she reached the rebounding a part of the milestone.

Can Ionescu convey a few of her triple-double magic to the WNBA? Rebounding would be the hardest half for the 5-foot-11 guard. She confirmed an incredible knack for that in faculty, however now she’ll be dealing with the very best rebounders on this planet.

In WNBA historical past, together with the playoffs, there have been simply 9 triple-doubles, in response to ESPN Stats & Info. Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes is the one participant to document a triple-double twice: in 1999 and in 2005. The others, in chronological order: Utah’s Margo Dydek (2001), Los Angeles’ Lisa Leslie (2003), Detroit’s Deanna Nolan (2005), Seattle’s Temeka Johnson (2014), Los Angeles’ Candace Parker (2015), Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot (2018) and Los Angeles’ Chelsea Grey (2019).

All the triple-doubles have been factors/rebounds/assists apart from these of Dydek and Leslie, which have been factors/rebounds/blocks.

Triple-doubles are extra widespread within the NBA, however the video games are 12 minutes longer, and the season is significantly longer, too. (The WNBA has performed a 34-game common season the previous a number of years and deliberate to go to 36 this yr earlier than the pandemic shortened the season to 22 video games.) There have been 94 triple-doubles within the NBA this season earlier than the pause in play in March, and there have been 127 final season. Three gamers — Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic — have at the very least 9 triple-doubles this season.

Though it will likely be difficult, Ionescu may make the triple-double a bit extra widespread within the WNBA.

Is Ionescu the favourite to win WNBA Rookie of the 12 months?

Ionescu gained nearly all of the awards she was eligible for this previous faculty season, together with nationwide and Pac-12 participant of the yr honors. Will she add the WNBA’s prime rookie trophy?

As talked about, she’ll have loads of rookie competitors on her workforce. Plus, the No. 2 choose, Ionescu’s former Geese teammate Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings, could possibly be a robust contender, as might No. Four choose Chennedy Carter, who’s anticipated to get a number of enjoying time for the Atlanta Dream.

The WNBA started presenting rookie of the yr in 1998, its second season. Of the 22 winners, 12 have been No. 1 picks. There was a stretch from 2008 to 2016 during which the highest choice gained the award eight of 9 years. However in two of the previous three — No. Four Allisha Grey of Dallas in 2017 and No. 6 Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx in 2019 — that wasn’t the case.

Though it is a person award, how groups fare can play into voting. One other rookie serving to her workforce go to the playoffs this yr might have an edge if the Liberty are within the basement.

This yr marked the primary time New York, one of many authentic eight WNBA franchises that launched in 1997, had the No. 1 draft choose.

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