GM Jonathan Kolb: Liberty look to keep building with number one pick

JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPT 13: The full Harvest Moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City on September 13, 2019 as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPT 13: The full Harvest Moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City on September 13, 2019 as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images) /

With the first number one pick in franchise history,  New York’s General Manager discusses this “exciting time” for the Liberty

During halftime of Tuesday’s first semi-final game, the New York Liberty were awarded the number one overall pick in 2020 Draft lottery.

Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb represented New York in Seacacus, NJ for the draft sweepstakes while current head coach Katie Smith was in Miami along with Tina Charles for USA Basketball’s training camp ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup.

“[Securing the number one pick]  means everything to the New York Liberty organization,” Kolb told High Post Hoops in a phone interview Tuesday night.  “We put ourselves in a position to have those odds in the lottery and we got ahead.”

While Kolb wouldn’t specify which player his team is looking for specifically for the upcoming draft in April, he outlined what he wants on and off the court from whoever he and the front office pick this spring.

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“Our priorities are finding caliber competitors that play with and compete with one another,” Kolb said. “I think that’s something we are really looking for. In terms if you are looking for on the court you know, you’ve got to have an elite set of skills to make a difference in this league and we’ve seen that. And I think there are players in this draft that up to that in skill.”

In Katie Smith’s final home postgame presser in the Liberty’s September 6 loss to the Fever, she revealed some of her team’s needs. She made it clear that this roster is looking for a “lead guard” as New York’s Achilles heel in 2019 were backcourt turnovers and inconsistency at the point.

Considering the possible retirement of New York’s 2019 floor general Tanisha Wright, all eyes are pointing toward Oregon superstar point guard Sabrina Ionescu playing in the city that never sleeps. A cryptic tweet from Ionescu’s college coach Kelly Graves assumes that he even expects for his All-American to go from playing in kelly green to seafoam.

Having secured the number one pick, the Liberty will need to make some roster moves while considering who from 2019 will help or hinder the franchise moving forward. But according to Kolb, the acquisition of the first pick right now doesn’t confirm anything about changes to the 2020 roster. “I don’t think that plays a factor into it,” he said.  “Every year teams have draft picks unless they traded them away at some point so. I don’t think it’s going to play into our decision regarding our 2020 roster.”

Kolb remained publicly agnostic on what appeared obvious regarding the 14-year veteran, that she will retire.  “You’d have to ask Tanisha on that one,” Kolb said.

The Liberty’s first number one overall draft pick in franchise history comes at a crucial time for this organization, which is still four months short of a year into new ownership. “If you are a Liberty fan, this is a really exciting time,” Kolb said. “I think that you can see that we are building something here.”

He’s not wrong. While Asia Durr‘s lingering groin injury limited the second overall pick in 2019’s, New York experienced an exciting rookie season from French guard Marinne Johannès. In addition to Tina Charles, the Liberty have a young core which revolves around talented versatile wings in   MJ, Kia Nurse and Rebecca Allen as able to spread the floor and pressure defenses.

With Joe Tsai yet to provide clarity on the Liberty’s future homecourt for 2020, he now has another signature star to help him fill Barclays Center. By draft night, Liberty fans should know who their biggest rookie addition ever will be, and where they get to cheer her on.

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