Han Xu is not like any other WNBA player has ever seen

It is almost impossible to find a suitable comparison for Han Xu, 6-foot-10, 22-year-old center For New York Liberty. No one I’ve met has been able to do that.

Big who can shoot triples? Sure, but there’s a lot more then there big – Han is several inches taller than almost everyone guarding her, which means that even positions capable of closing in on her can’t block her shot. And her game versatility only grew in the 2022 season, her second in the league, having previously clocked just 143 minutes when she was 19 in 2019 (COVID-19 protocols have prevented Hahn from coming to the US both the past two seasons.)

Although her head coach, Sandy Brundillo, wasn’t quite sure what she had when she reported to Hahn about camp this spring, she ended up having a two-way threat capable of reshaping what the league could expect from a center position. Han’s numbers and potential make a compelling case for her as one of the most valuable young players in the game – even if it’s not easy to compare to any star from the present or the past.

Indeed, Han is as effective as anyone in the game at the end of the attack. An average of 1.12 points per possession ranks her fifth in the WNBA among players who have played at least five games, ahead of WNBA Kings Sylvia Fowles and Nika Ogomec.

“Since I was young, photography is what I’m always good at,” Han said through her translator, Cindy Chen, as we chatted on the field before the Liberty game earlier this month. “And I want to show him on this stage as well. And when filming, I feel like when I don’t think too much, I don’t think too much, no one can guard me.”

She is right, of course.

This season, Han scored 55.9 effective field goals in 441 minutes, placing it 7th of all time among players 22 or less. But even this list requires a bit more context, since it includes players who mostly ended up around the edge or weren’t primary offensive choices in their time on the ground. If we also set a minimum usage rate of 20 percent, resulting list It is more impressive.

Han in an elite offensive company

Highest effective single-season field goal percentage for WNBA players in their 22-year-old season or earlier, with a minimum utilization rate of 20 percent, 1997-2022

player year age Team MIN / G USG% eFG%
Nika Ogomec 2013 22 League of Arab States 25.8 23.8% 56.9%
Liz Campage 2013 21 TUL 25.0 28.5 56.1
Han Shuo 2022 22 NYL 18.0 21.9 55.9
Britney Greiner 2013 22 PHO 25.9 21.8 55.6
Ann Waters 2002 21 Total 28.6 20.4 55.3
Chiney Ogwumike 2014 22 Deceive 29.7 22.8 53.7
Crystal Dangerfield 2020 22 minute 30.0 24.6 53.6
Nika Ogomec 2012 21 League of Arab States 27.9 20.5 53.6
Candice Parker 2008 22 League of Arab States 33.6 24.6 53.5
Brianna Stewart 2017 22 Sea 32.9 27.6 52.8

At least 5 matches played, 7 field goal attempts per game.

Source: basketball-reference.com

The only players to have preceded Han — Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage — combined in 11 team matches in the All-Star Game, and MVP and scorer in one game since the 2013 season. Neither of them has been skilled at post-arc in Hahn’s age, while she achieved Han 14 from 29 3-point attempts this season, an average of 48.3 percent. Brundello recently joked that Hahn should have been in a 3-point contest, but frankly, in a world where Jonquil Jones was involved last season, it’s an idea worth considering.

Note that in that list also, among the top players, there are players like Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker; Lauren Jackson missed the top ten as well. Han’s company is the best of the best, in other words – even though it’s the tallest of them all.

for her brondillo Longtime Australian teammate Jackson was the comparison that came to mind – though, like everyone else I’ve spoken to, she admitted it was completely inappropriate.

“Lauren Jackson, I suppose you looked at that from an early age,” Brundello said. “I mean, I’ve played with her for a long time. It was amazing what she could do at such a young age here. But look, it’s more about it.” [Han] Feeling confident and comfortable in their surroundings. And I think we’re a great organization and we embrace it coming to work [and] She wants to be better.”

While recording is clearly Han’s most attractive tool, it is far from the only tool at her disposal. Despite her young age and the increased defensive interest she faced with teams acknowledging her new level of confidence, Han has a turnover rate of just 8.4 percent, Good for 5th place in the league. She is one of 15 players with a mass average of at least 3 percent and a stealing rate of 1 percent or higher, in a list that includes some of the most influential positional defenders in the WNBA, such as Brianna Turner and Cambage.

“I knew offensively, we could put her in the right positions there with a touch of the inside and out,” Brundello said earlier this month. “But… at the beginning, it was about getting her to run at a defensive speed. It wasn’t aggressive. And I think that only takes time for a young player who doesn’t speak English. And so we were patient with it. … and it was great to see her development.”

In the July 6 match against Las Vegas Ice, the world got a glimpse of just how dangerous the fully developed Han can be. Han 11 out of 12 attempts to pay her backfinished with 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists in New York’s 116-107 victory.

“It’s different,” said senior ace Aja Wilson. She noted that New York could call plays for Hahn to receive the ball “where she can only get it,” a strategy Wilson said she also used. But Han has six inches over a 6-foot-4 Wilson, so in this case Wilson found herself on the other end. “In her own way, you can tell that she’s coming on her own. You can tell New York does things that make her feel comfortable. Putting things in her game, that’s fine.”

Not that Wilson had companies for her either.

“I can’t even think of someone [like her] From the NBA side,” Wilson said. “It’s just the thing that it is.”

One of the closest comparisons I’ve found is Emma Missiman, who in her 22-year-old season had an effective field goal percentage of 56.6 percent, a Hahn score of 56.0, while six of her 13 3-point attempts had a similar success rate (though was not prolific). Messman formed the All-Star Team that year, her first team, to win the WNBA Finals Player of the Year award in 2019. Now, she’s looking to the right track to help take Chicago Sky for another deep playoff in 2022.

Of course, Meesseman is 6 feet 4 inches tall – and Emma Meesseman plus six inches is a completely different player!

“I think Emma is, in a way, a good comparison,” Liberty teammate Stephanie Dolson, who also played for Messman in the capital, said, “But I think, like I said, there weren’t 6-10 players there. [like Han]. …I think she did a great job at just taking what she had as a package and making it really good.”

For her part, Han has no shortage of role models. But she knows as much as anyone that the course she drew is for her.

“There is a lot [centers] Han said, speaking clearly figuratively, not literally. “I want to play as smart as Sylvia Fowles, physically as Jonquil Jones. But there is no one person I want to become – I just want to become myself.”

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