Last season, the Connecticut Sun went against the trend that has taken over nearly all levels of basketball.
But the Sun couldn’t hold out forever, and will change with the times for this upcoming campaign by putting a bigger priority on playing a more up-tempo brand of basketball that emphasizes pace and space.
Despite having an efficient offense a season ago, the Sun were dead last in the WNBA in its pace metric, according to WNBA advanced stats, and were bottom-third in the league in 3-point attempts per game.
It doesn’t seem like the Sun will see similar results in those categories for this year’s campaign with head coach Curt Miller electing to alter the team’s style. That decision has gone over well with Miller’s players, who are chomping at the bit to push the pace when they hit the floor.
“That fast pace, that’s me, that’s college, that’s high school, that’s been me since I was born,” Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman said at the team’s media day. “Transition. Transition. Transition. I’m spotting up at the arc. I’m telling everybody that right now.”
Brionna Jones, who was the WNBA’s Most Improved Player last year, believes the up-tempo style the Sun look to play will fit her skill set as well.
Jones also sees the additions of guard Courtney Williams, who the Sun brought back this offseason, along with a full season of Alyssa Thomas, who missed 30 games last year due to an Achilles injury, aiding Connecticut in their transition to playing faster.
“I’m excited to play up-tempo,” Jones said. “I think that’s the kind of game I like to watch, the kind of game I like to play. So, I’m excited that we’re getting up-tempo this year, and I think we’re adjusting really well. I think bringing AT back into the fold definitely pushes the tempo because the way she likes to get out and run.
“I think for us it’s just an adjustment getting her back on the floor and then I think for us, bringing Courtney back, she’s been here, she knows the system. So I think everybody’s ready to push the pace this year.”
With the Sun changing-up the way they play, there will certainly be an adjustment period the team goes through. Connecticut is still centered around its dominant post players with reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones along with Thomas and Brionna Jones able to wreak havoc in the paint.
But figuring out how to space the floor when those three are on the court will present a challenge to the Sun as the team continues to adjust to the new style.
“They’re all extremely talented, high IQ players, so we’re fortunate to have them,” longtime Sun guard Jasmine Thomas said. “We’re fortunate to be able to put them on the court together and I think they just find a way to make it work. They’re all really versatile. So I think that helps, too. I think even with having Courtney back in the style that we played when she was here before versus now, it’s for everyone to kind of get comfortable with. It’s not just having those three on the court at one time. It’s a lot of us just feeling our way out and getting comfortable playing together.”
Jasmine Thomas, who ranks 15th all-time in the WNBA in assists, knows the Sun will need to take good care of the basketball for this all to work.
“Limiting turnovers,” Jasmine Thomas said when asked about the issues playing this way. “I think that’s something when you pick up the pace and just being able to make better decisions moving faster. That’s something we talk about a lot in practice and we show that in video. But also, for me personally, just running the floor without the ball, not always having to be the person to get the outlet and I can also run and space the floor. We got a lot of people that can push it.”
The Sun, who opened their season with an 81-79 loss to the New York Liberty, return to action Saturday against the Los Angeles Sparks, a game you can watch on NESN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET.