Just recently, there was an exchange in the comments of a post about draft prospects discussing the idea of the New York Liberty bringing in someone to fill a role similar to the one that Katie Smith filled with the Detroit Shock for Bill Laimbeer.
Well, yesterday, Laimbeer went out and just signed Smith, a move that probably wasn’t all that surprising considering the success the two have experienced together in the WNBA in the past.
But what role might Smith fill with the Liberty?
To the point of the role Smith has filled for Laimbeer in the past, one of the New York Liberty’s biggest weaknesses last season was their negative turnover differential, meaning they turned the ball over more often than their opponents. Although forcing turnovers on the defensive end was a bigger “problem” than committing them, the fact still remained that they finished the season without any particularly efficient distributors: point guard Leilani Mitchell had an up and down season and star Cappie Pondexter, the other ball handling option, had an assist rate below that of a distributor.
Last season with the Seattle Storm, Smith did have the assist rate of a distributor (22%) and had a marginally higher pure point rating (-0.25) than Pondexter (-0.74). The downside, for fans who still reminisce about Smith’s ABL days, is that she’s also become less of a scorer and a less efficient player overall as a result over the last few years.
Report Created on <a href=”http://www.basketball-reference.com/” mce_href=”http://www.basketball-reference.com/”>Basketball-Reference.com</a>
So if it’s possible that she fills that role as an alternate distributor, the next question is how well might she fill that role?
There are two ways to look at that. On the one hand, if you look at her numbers over the last five years, it’s hard not to see a downward trend – even though her true shooting percentage (TS%) has gone up a bit (in no small part due to shooting 40% from the 3-point line last season), her usage rate (13.3%) suggests that a lot of that was simply because she was taking less shots last season.
On the other hand, when Smith was initially signed by the Storm, one thing I wondered is whether she would get more efficient with less than the 30.8 minutes per game she played with the Washington Mystics in 2010; the reasoning would be that she might get more efficient if she has less minutes. It’s worthwhile to wonder the same with the Liberty: as she becomes more of a spark off the bench on a team with a pretty solid guard rotation – as well as the fifth pick in the draft – Smith shouldn’t need to play as many minutes. Based on the numbers above, you could do worse than having Smith come off the bench to play around 15-20 minutes per game on the wing.
Ultimately, it will just be interesting to see how Laimbeer fills out this roster this offseason and how much the rotation changes from last season.
For more on the Liberty, check out our offseason storystream.