One day the Connecticut Sun’s entire core will play together as designed.
That day won’t be this season, with two-time All-Star Alyssa Thomas out after tearing her Achilles abroad. But as the WNBA enters its break for the 2021 All-Star Game and the Tokyo Olympics, the Sun could be in worse shape.
They have the third best record in the league at 14-6, behind the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas despite having beat the Aces twice. Worthy of mention, three of Connecticut’s losses came while its best player was absent for five games playing internationally.
With Jones back, the Sun absolutely look like a reasonable contender to finally earn a WNBA title. They fell short in the Finals in 2019, and saw their season end in the quarterfinals in 2020 with Jones having opted out.
Maybe this is the year. But before we get ahead of ourselves, here are a few notes at midseason:
— It’s getting really hard to make a case that Jonquel Jones shouldn’t be the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player.
She was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday and leads the league with a 31.1 Player Efficiency Rating, which honestly is absurd. And no one else is close. At the break she’s averaged a double-double with 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks.
She’s shooting 54 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from deep, tied for 17th in the league with teammate Natisha Heideman in attempts beyond the arc (4.7 per game). We’re talking about a player that’s 6-foot-6.
Right now Jonquel Jones is +140 as the odds-on favorite to win MVP, per DraftKings Sportsbook. The odds look even better for her now than they did in early June before she missed that time.
— Connecticut’s core three won’t be getting a break like the rest of their team.
Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones all made the 2021 WNBA All-Star team, with the latter earning the distinction for the first time in her career. Though without Thomas, their WNBA All-Defensive motor, that trio has helped maintain the Sun’s identity.
Their defense is tied for first in the league with a rating of 95.1, and they’re second in average rebounds (37.3 per game) and fifth in steals (7.2). Their size creates a lot of offense for Connecticut, and Brionna Jones leads the league in offensive boards. And with those three core players all above 6 feet, being fifth in the WNBA in 3-point shooting percentage (35.7) is nothing to sneeze at.
All that to say, Jonquel Jones and Bonner together are everything we could have hoped for. And Brionna Jones emergence is a welcome development.
— The WNBA All-Stars won’t be split up by conferences, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being played in Summer 2021. Instead, the WNBA All-Stars will play Team USA in the exhibition game.
— By defeating the Atlanta Dream two games ago, the Sun clinched a spot in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Connecticut will represent the East in the inaugural championship on August 12, playing the Storm in what potentially could be a WNBA Finals preview. The new in-season tournament ranks teams in standing which weighs how it has fared against opposing teams in their first matchup of the year. The Sun went 9-1 in such games.
— After the break, Connecticut travels to Dallas to face the Wings on August 15.