Is this a make-or-break season for Sabrina Ionescu? Sabrina is possibly the most polarizing player in the league, and with that comes lofty expectations. Fair or unfair, there’s an abundance of pressure on her to reach another level of stardom on the court. 

Ionescu is coming off back-to-back 17-point-per-game seasons; her assist and rebound numbers dropped last season due to Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, and Courtney Vandersloot joining the team. She broke the single-season three-point record with 128 on 44.8% shooting.

She’s an ultra-entertaining player who can do a plethora of things offensively, in terms of running the offense, starting a fastbreak, whether it be an outlet pass or pushing it herself. She can shoot off the dribble, in transition, off any kind of off-ball screen, and has an unlimited range which makes her a difficult matchup. 

 

I think this is a very interesting season for Sabrina, and that it is a make-or-break season for her. What I mean by that, is that there are expectations for her to be a superstar. Off the court, she is, on the court, she isn’t yet.

Sabrina is a phenomenal shooter, I’d argue the best in the league, and one of the best passers in the league. Having those qualities can make you a great player, but there are things that put you in a different category that she’s missing at the moment. 

Offensively, she’s currently lacking the consistent ability to get by a defender in one-on-one situations. Defenders have always tried to be more physical with her, and it’s definitely had an effect. With that being said, she’s still been able to put up the numbers she has with those deficiencies. She’s an established all-star in the league, but improving on these things could help her reach her superstar potential. 

She struggled in the playoffs last season when things slowed down, and there was more attention to contain her. She shot 39% from the field, and had just 2 games out of 10 where she scored over 20 points. It isn’t the end of the world, she isn’t the first young player to struggle in the playoffs, and won’t be the last. But I’m curious to know what she learned from those games.

 Her perimeter defense has been a weakness in the past as well. Her lack of lateral quickness has hurt her on that side of the ball. I do think she’s improved marginally on that front, and if she can do that each year, it’ll help address a serious problem the Liberty have had for some time.  With the guard position getting better year after year, she’s going to have the challenge defensively more and more.

She doesn’t need to be a lockdown defender or an all-league defender. But if she takes the effort to become an above-average defender, it’ll be a tremendous help to the Liberty. Her effort is one of the biggest determining factors in someone’s defensive abilities, she has size and athleticism, she just needs to bring the effort every night. 

The Liberty were two games away winning a championship last season. I expect a better overall season from Jonquel Jones, Stewie is coming off an MVP season, and Sloot is still one of the floor generals this league has ever seen. All of the pressure isn’t on Sabrina, but she is the key to whether or not they win a championship this season.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton is a very good perimeter scorer but has the ball in her hands the least of the starting lineup. In the playoffs, perimeter scoring was a struggle for the Liberty.

 If the Liberty can rely on Sabrina to create for herself offensively, that makes them nearly unguardable. She is capable of doing so. If she wasn’t I don’t think people would be clamoring, or waiting to see it. Some of it maybe can be drawn as confidence, does she feel comfortable making those plays, being aggressive looking for her shot?

This is an entirely different team if she is comfortably making those plays, especially with her ability to shoot and pass the ball. She only averaged three free throw attempts per game last season, I think that’s a testament to her staying out on the perimeter. It was the first season she didn’t shoot 90% from the free throw line, but getting to the rim is something she can absolutely do more.

It takes pressure off of Stewie and Jonquel, while also opening things up for them. She’s a good decision-maker and can be able to put more pressure on the defense as the pick-and-roll ball handler. 

Sabrina Ionescu is one of the best guards in the league and is a tremendous basketball player, truly. She’s fantastic at moving without the ball, which is frightening for defenses because of her shooting ability. She has an ability that not many have, to get hot quickly and open a game up in a few minute span due to it as well.

If she wants to take that next step, those are the two things she must improve on. I’m not calling for her to be some ball-dominant scorer, but when the game slows, can they count on her to create a shot for herself? That’s crucial in the playoffs, and ultimately, in the Finals. This has to be the year for Sabrina, and if it is, they have a great chance of hoisting their first WNBA Finals trophy. 

 

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