Things were a bit uncertain for the Connecticut Sun entering the shortened season in 2020.
Sure, the team had reached the WNBA finals in 2019, but the core of that squad was completely shaken up in the offseason that proceeded.
Connecticut entered the Wubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. without three of its starters from the 2019 run. Not to mention Briann January couldn’t join them right away after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
But after starting the season 0-5, the Sun turned things around and qualified for the postseason and made a deep run. DeWanna Bonner and January proved to be a great fit and Brionna Jones stepped up in Jonquel Jones’ absence. Jasmine Thomas improved her offensive production, too, while Alyssa Thomas did Alyssa Thomas things.
In the end, they took league MVP A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces to a five-game series, falling one win short of a second straight Finals berth.
And after a shocking performance like that, you can bet a lot more will be expected from the Sun next year. Though, the roster situation could completely be shaken up again.
Here’s what the offseason looks like for the Sun:
WHO IS LOCKED UP NEXT YEAR?
DeWanna Bonner (with Sun through 2023)
Jonquel Jones (with Sun through 2021)
Briann January (with Sun through 2021)
Kaila Charles (with Sun through 2022)
WHO CAN WALK?
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Restricted Free Agents:
WHAT DO THE FINANCIALS LOOK LIKE?
With just four players under contract next season, the Sun have a lot of room to play with when negotiating new deals and compiling their roster.
2021 WNBA Salary Cap Max: $1,339,000
Active Roster Cap: $594,396
Total Salaries: $594,396
Actual Cap Max Space: $744,604
Here’s the full breakdown of player salaries and how they contribute to Connecticut’s cap, via Spotrac.
WHAT OTHER PLAYERS WILL BE ON THE MARKET?
It’s unlikely Connecticut re-signs everyone who needs a new deal and returns an identical roster, so let’s take a look at some notable free agents from other teams. (Here is a full list.)
Sue Bird, G — Seattle Storm
Chelsea Gray, G — Los Angeles Sparks
Diana Taurasi, G — Phoenix
Emma Meesseman, F — Washington Mystics
Tina Charles, C — Washington Mystics
Natasha Cloud, G — Washington Mystics
Glory Johnson, F — Atlanta Dream
Danielle Robinson, G — Las Vegas Aves
Candice Dupree, F — Indiana
Chiney Ogqumike, F — Los Angeles Sparks
Nneka Ogqumike, F — Los Angeles Sparks
Candace Parker, F — Los Angeles Sparks
A’ja Wilson, C — Las Vegas Aces (club option)
BIGGEST QUESTION ENTERING 2021
With so much up in the air regarding what lineup Connecticut rolls out in 2021, it’s hard to say what the biggest focus should be this offseason other than bringing back Alyssa Thomas as a main priority.
We feel good about it, though, considering some insight from Bonner back on Sept. 15:
As for Jasmine, we’re really reading into her postgame comments after the Game 5 loss to Vegas in hopes she’ll stick around, too.
Connecticut certainly will want to bring back Brionna Jones, who improved tremendously in a new role this season under head coach and general manager Curt Miller.
After all, it’s the Sun who gave her the opportunity after some time overseas.
“Coming (into the season), I just wanted to prove that I could play here,” Jones said earlier this month, via The Athletic’s Charlotte Carroll. “I love playing in Connecticut (and) playing with this team, so I just wanted to prove that I belong here and that I could make an impact.”
With two-consecutive deep playoff runs, something clearly is in the air with the Sun. And with everything they accomplished this season, despite all the adversity they faced, another year with this core group would only add to its potential.
Hopefully, the core contributors buy in for another go.