A busy week for the New York Liberty just got even busier. In a few days, they'll make the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft for the first time in franchise history, and are expected to take standout Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu. But before they add a player they hope will be the cornerstone of their team for years to come, they traded away the player who had held that role for the past six seasons.
Late on Wednesday morning, the Liberty ended the speculation surrounding Tina Charles by sending her to the Washington Mystics in a three-team trade that also involved the Dallas Wings. In return, the Liberty got Tayler Hill and the Nos. 9 and 15 overall picks in this year's draft from the Wings, as well as Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the No. 12 overall pick in this year's draft, a 2021 second-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick from the Mystics. The Wings received the Mystics' 2021 first-round pick and the Liberty's 2021 second-round pick.
A free agent this winter, the Liberty gave Charles the core designation, but she never signed a contract. As the weeks dragged on, it seemed clear she would be on the move, and now it has happened. With the deal now officially in place, here's a look at the grades for each team.
Liberty trade grade: C-
New York receives:
- Tayler Hill
- Shatori Walker-Kimbrough
- No. 9 overall pick, 2020 draft (via Dallas)
- No. 12 overall pick, 2020 draft (via Washington)
- No. 15 overall pick, 2020 draft (via Dallas)
- 2021 second-round pick (via Washington)
- 2021 third-round pick (via Washington)
This is a tricky one to trade from the Liberty's perspective. For one, they were in a difficult spot. By virtue of refusing to sign the core designation contract, Charles made it clear she no longer wanted to be in New York and deal with a rebuild. And the fact that she ended up being traded to the Mystics, where she'll reunite with her former coach, Mike Thibault, certainly makes it seem like she chose her destination.
At that point, there's only so much the Liberty can do. In a perfect world, they would have traded Charles a few seasons ago when she had much more value, but that just wasn't possible for a number of reasons. Now, as they tried to facilitate this trade, they had no leverage, and very few options. In the end, they settled for a number of draft picks rather than established players, which makes sense considering the status of the franchise.
Speaking of those picks, that is another reason this trade is difficult to grade. Hill was thrown in for salary reasons and isn't part of their long-term plan, while Walker-Kimbrough looks like a back-up guard at this point. The real value was three extra top 15 picks in this year's draft to go along with Sabrina Ionescu. But at this point, obviously, we don't know what direction they're going to go with them. They could just make the picks, or perhaps they could try and package them to move up in the draft.
Overall, a few backup guards and some late first-round picks is not much of a return for a player who was your team's best player for six seasons. But then again, they needed to move on and finally push the restart button, and had few options available. What they do with the picks could end up changing the outcome, but for now, this deal seems average at best.
Mystics trade grade: B+
- Tina Charles
Though she was still putting up big numbers with the Liberty, and is a household name, it must be made clear that this isn't prime, double-double machine Tina Charles the Mystics are getting. That being said, this is a great pick up for them. They're coming off their first title in franchise history, and are in clear win-now mode. So while they did give up a number of picks over the next few years, those were going to be late first-rounders anyway, and they already have the core of their team locked up.
Charles has plenty of familiarity with Thibault, playing three seasons for him in Connecticut, including her MVP year in 2012. With Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman leading the way, Charles won't have to be the primary option in Washington, and the team's 3-point shooting should give her much more space and freedom to operate in the post.
Adding a veteran with as much skill as Charles is a solid way for the Mystics to bolster a championship roster without giving up too much in return.
Wings trade grade: B
- 2021 first-round pick (via Washington)
- 2021 second-round pick (via New York)
Through a series of moves, the Wings had accumulated four first-round picks this year, and there was no way they were going to have enough roster spots available for all of them. By helping the Liberty and Mystics make this trade happen, they were able to clear Hill's contract from their books, open up another roster spot and add a first-round pick in next year's draft. It's not exciting, but it's a perfectly solid deal.