The Sun have a lot to look forward to in 2020, despite some major changes.
Just six players from the 2019 roster are returning to Connecticut this season after a busy offseason and the COVID-19 pandemic changed the look of the team. But the goal still remains the same: claim that elusive first-ever WNBA title.
Unlike seasons past, Connecticut has just 22 regular-season games to work with. All of this, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic itself, is sure to make for one heck of a season. And there will be plenty of news to keep an eye on, too.
Here are the top five Sun storylines to watch in 2020:
1. Replacing Jonquel Jones, Shekinna Stricklen and Courtney Williams
Filling this trio’s shoes will be no small task, but the Sun simply have no choice.
Jones, Stricklen and Williams were three of Connecticut’s starting five in 2019, setting a WNBA record for most games played (44) in a single season (including both the regular season and the playoffs) with the same starting five. But Stricklen and Williams joined the Atlanta Dream in February, and Jones opted out of the 2020 season June 22. Now, only Jasmine and Alyssa Thomas remain, putting the Sun in a difficult position heading into a condensed season.
Luckily, Connecticut managed to pick up some solid players this offseason in veterans Briann January and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and rookies Beatrice Mompreier and Kaila Charles.
2. The impact of DeWanna Bonner
All eyes will be on Bonner this season as she plays for a team other than the Phoenix Mercury for the first time in her decade-long career. But what exactly will she bring to the Sun?
That’s the question fans will look to have answered in 2020. And, barring any major changes to her status, Bonner likely will leave an impressive mark on the Sun. The 32-year-old has two WNBA titles and three All-Star nods under her belt and has shown no signs of slowing down, even after more than 10 years in the league.
But what kind of success will she find on the Sun? Only time will tell.
3. An abbreviated season away from home
Thanks to COVID-19, the WNBA has been forced to condense its season from 36 to 22 games. What’s more, the league has all 12 teams quarantined in a “bubble” at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where they hope to play the entire 2020 season in a matter of 2 1/2 months.
And while this certainly won’t halt the Sun’s quest for their first-ever WNBA title, it does complicate it.
Connecticut was one of the most dominant home teams in 2019, earning an impressive 15-2 record at Mohegan Sun Arena. This gave the Sun, who ultimately placing second in the Eastern Conference, a major boost in the standings. And with 14 fewer games on tap this season, the margin of error is much slimmer for this Sun squad than in years past.
4. Avenging their 2019 Finals loss
The Sun came oh-so close to claiming their first WNBA title in 2019, falling one game shy of the championship after a feisty five-game battle against the Washington Mystics.
And, COVID-19 or not, Connecticut is looking to avenge that loss and prove it’s worth more than second place.
Of course, the Sun’s newly revamped roster will play a role in their success this season. With only six players from the team’s 2019 roster returning 2020, there are six new personalities and skill sets to assess to account for and weave into the teams’ game plan. But Connecticut seems just as connected and energized as ever, which could prove problematic for other squads down the road.
5. Coronavirus. Coronavirus. Coronavirus.
Naturally, COVID-19 will be a lingering issue throughout the 2020 season both for the Sun and across the WNBA.
Two Sun players, January and Natisha Hiedeman, tested positive for COVID-19 before the team traveled to IMGA earlier this month. Theresa Plaisance also believes she might have contracted the deadly virus while playing in December for Shaanxi in China, though she was not tested for it while hospitalized.
Heideman and January, however, likely won’t be the only ones to return positive coronavirus tests. And depending on which players contract the virus, the team’s roster situation could get sticky, and quick.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images