The 2021 WNBA season is almost upon us, and the Connecticut Sun are gearing up for what should be another thrilling campaign.
The Sun are riding a four-year playoff streak as head coach Curt Miller enters Year 5 of leading the team. Connecticut has made quite the turnaround under his direction and overcome some incredibly trying situations during his tenure. The 2021 season promises to be no different.
The Sun will have plenty of new challenges to tackle this year. Alyssa Thomas’ indefinite absence, for instance, already created a ripple effect that inevitably will last throughout the season. Tack on Jonquel Jones’ return, Connecticut’s ever-evolving roster and the midseason Olympic break, and you have the potential for dramatics.
Clearly, there are several questions facing the Sun as opening night quickly approaches. Here is a look at our top five:
How will Connecticut cope with Alyssa Thomas’ absence?
The Sun will be without one of their biggest stars for most, if not all of the 2021 season, leaving Connecticut with some incredibly large shoes to fill in the interim.
Thomas underwent surgery to repair an injured Achilles tendon in January. Miller expects Thomas to be with the team throughout the season as the team uses one of its 12 roster spots to allow this. Connecticut essentially will be down a player until her eventual return, though it is unclear when she will be cleared to return to the court.
In the meantime, the Sun will have to lean on its other stars to get the job done. But that shouldn’t be too much of an issue behind the likes of Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas, all of which are proven leaders and former All-Stars. Connecticut still should be in good hands.
Who will make a splash this season?
There’s no question about the level of talent on the Sun. But with Thomas out, at least one person will have to step up, if not more. Just who will be leaned on, though, remains to be seen.
Brionna Jones and Briann January likely will maintain their starting gigs, especially after their impact in 2020 following some major offseason shakeups. It is unclear if one or more players will help fill the void left by Thomas, but several have the capacity to do so. Natisha Hiedeman, for instance, has shown steady improvement as her role with the team gradually increased throughout her first two seasons. Kaila Charlies and Beatrice Mompremier, meanwhile, showed plenty of promise on both ends of the court throughout their respective rookie campaigns.
It’s not all about the starting role, though. A shift in the starting five means a shift on the bench, and some players will be needed to hold down the fort. And like last season (after Jonquel Jones opted out), matchups potentially could play a big role in who Miller chooses to start or not.
What kind of chemistry will DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones have?
Bonner and Jones have yet to play together after the former joined the Sun during the 2020 offseason. But that will change come Friday. The question is, will they mesh?
Bonner did not get to play with Jones during her inaugural season with the Sun after Jones opted out due to personal reasons amid the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two will have plenty of time to find their chemistry as a pair with Thomas’ injury. Something tells us these two will gel just fine, though.
How will the WNBA’s midseason break impact the Sun?
The WNBA has scheduled a midseason break to allow players to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. And while it will make it much easier for players to represent their respective countries, it could throw a wrench into some team’s plans.
It is too soon to tell exactly how this will impact the Sun. It largely will rely on their performance leading up to the break and which players (if any) will compete in the Olympics. The biggest question is how Connecticut will respond after the lengthy break, which will last from Thursday, July 15 to Wednesday, August 11. There will be a month’s worth of games left to play at that point, making the all-important playoff push that much more crucial this go-around.
Can the Sun finally win their first-ever WNBA championship?
Yes, we have been asking that question a lot the last few years. But if the last two seasons are any indication, the Sun still are in a spot to capture their first title in the WNBA’s 25-year history.
Most of Connecticut’s core players remain on the roster, despite Thomas’ injury absence. Regaining Jones will give the team a much-needed boost, though it is unclear exactly how the team’s newest additions will impact the team’s on-court success.
As the Sun proved in 2019 and 2020, this team is perfectly capable of resilience in the face of adversity. Connecticut still has the capacity to do so, especially with some promising young talent on the training camp roster, though finding the proper chemistry never is guaranteed. But from what we’ve witnessed so far, there does not seem to be a lack of camaraderie between players whatsoever.