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  • Writer's pictureKyle Flannery

The Key to the New York Liberty is Betnijah Laney

New York Liberty guard Betnijah Laney lines up to shoot a free throw

Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

As the New York Liberty continue to make their case as the best team in the WNBA after a near-40 point shellacking of the Aces and a subsequent Commissioner's Cup win, all eyes are on them as the WNBA playoffs approach. Despite having possibly the greatest women's basketball player on the planet, the 2021 WNBA MVP, and this year's NBA 2K cover athlete, one player serves as the glue that holds it all together: Betnijah Laney.

With New York's recent additions of Stewart, Jones, and Vandersloot along with the ascension of Sabrina Ionescu, Laney has been graceful transitioning to the perfect complementary role in the Liberty's now star-studded lineup. The transition has been nearly seamless for the former second round pick, but fans who started following the Libs this year may not be aware of Laney's career accolades that could easily place her as the second best player on another team. Within the past 4 seasons, Laney is a former WNBA Most Improved Player (2020), All-WNBA Defensive Team member (2020), WNBA All Star (2021), and the Dawn Staley Leadership Award recipient (2022). Also, she was a certified bucket getter: She's the first player in Liberty history to open a season with 8 consecutive 20-point contests. Even with these accomplishments on her resume, the way Laney has embraced her new role with New York has been equally impressive. The Liberty should attribute much of their success to Betnijah Laney, and here is why:

New York Liberty guard Betnijah Laney pulls up for a jumpshot

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Laney Spreads the Floor

The New York Liberty lead the league in 3 pointers made, with over 50 more than the next closest team. This is largely due to Laney's ability to knock down open shots, specifically off of pick and rolls. With Ionescu's limitless range and high usage rate off of ball screens, the scouting report is to hedge Ionescu hard, sending two defenders at her to try and force her to give up the ball. As the weak side defender typically comes over to defend the roller, that often leaves Laney open from downtown. She's second on the team in 3 point percentage (for those who play more than 6 minutes a game,) shooting at a 39% clip on nearly four attempts per contest. Her success beyond the arc paired with her nearly 50% mark from the field and a 57% effective field goal percentage is a critical for arguably the best offense in the W.

New York Liberty guard Betnijah Laney reacts to a call on defense

Rick Scuteri/AP Photo

Laney is a Plus Defender

In addition to her efficient offense, the Rutgers product is far from a slouch on defense as well. Laney made the All-Defensive Team just three years ago, and she has a solid 98.5 defensive rating which ranks 2nd amongst Liberty starters. Although her defensive rebounding numbers decreased from last season, that can be attributed to the additions of Stewart and Jones along with playing next to one of the best rebounding guards in the world in Sabrina Ionescu. If New York sees the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals as expected, having a noteworthy defender such as Laney will be crucial in keeping Vegas' perimeter scoring in check.

Though originally known as a journeywoman defensive specialist to begin her career, Laney has proven to be an effective scorer in numerous roles while finding her home in New York. With the Liberty's title hopes being put to the test as we're less than 3 weeks way from the playoffs, look for the glue that is Betnijah Laney to hold New York together as they claw their way to their first ever WNBA championship.

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