2020 Season Preview: Connecticut Sun

alyssa thomas dribbles

The Connecticut Sun were a bit lucky to make it to game 5 in the WNBA finals last year. If Elena Delle Donne is healthy for the entire series, it is probably over in 3 or at most 4 games. However, the Sun did play well and did have success with a roster that fit well together.

Their decision to move on from a key younger player, and sign and trade for an older player, is one that I question. Courtney Williams is 26. Dewanna Bonner is 32. Bonner may have been better last year, but that is a big bet on Bonner keeping her value into her 30s, and Williams not continuing to improve.

However, the biggest impact on the Sun for the 2020 season is nothing to do with Bonner or Williams, but rather Jonquel Jones opting out. Not only is that big for the Sun because Jones was the second best player in the WNBA last year, but the drop off to her backup is more dramatic than it would be for quite a few other teams.

Even with a full team I was not picking this team to return to the finals, but now, I would not pick them to make the semifinals. Defensively they should be good, but I think their offense may slip too much given who they have lost.

Roster Breakdown:

Notable Additions: Dewanna Bonner, Briann January.

Notable Losses: Courtney Williams, Shekinna Stricklen

Draft: 2nd round Kaila Charles

Guards: Briann January, Jasmine Thomas, Jacki Gemelos, Natasha Hiedeman

Wings: Bria Holmes, Dewanna Bonner, Kalena Mosqueda-Lewis, Kaila Charles

Bigs: Alyssa Thomas, Beatrice Mompromier, Brionna Jones, Theresa Plaisance

I like the signing of Beatrice Mompromier. This is a good year to sign a younger player and see what they have to offer. There were more consistent bigs available, but none with the potential upside of Mompromier.

Playing time Breakdown:

Alyssa Thomas is the best player on the team as their 4 and one of the most interesting players in the league. While she is unable to shoot outside of about 5 feet from the basket, she does everything else one would want out of a 4 and she does them very well. Passing, defending, setting screens and more. While she would be undersized, Thomas is strong enough and smart enough defensively to even play some center, which I hope to see.

Even before Jones opted out I was lower on this team than last year’s team, however, because A. Thomas’ inability to shoot is going to be even more of an issue next to Dewanna Bonner. Going from Shekinna Stricklen to Dewanna Bonner is an upgrade in every area except for shooting. But shooting next to a complete non-shooter like Alyssa Thomas is so important, I wonder about the fit.

Dewanna Bonner has typically played most of her minutes at the 3. I do hope Curt Miller experiments more with playing smaller with Dewanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas in the front court, as Bonner has the size and strength, though you may not see it looking at her, to play against most 4s in the league. Playing at the 4 also allows her to use her speed, and makes her poor shooting less damaging.

Briann January in place of Courtney Williams is a downgrade at the 2. While January is a good defender, she has slipped the season or two, and Williams is a good defender. The bigger issue is on the other end, where in the playoffs Williams became a much better player by taking more 3s, particularly off the dribble. Williams love of long 2s is and was frustrating, but when she cleaned up her shots, her dynamism as a shot creating guard really improved the Sun.

The Sun now do not have a player who is a danger to shoot out of the pick and 3, and attack the rim, which limits their ability to puncture the defense. This combined with non-shooting at the 3, 4 and 5 when Theresa Plaisance is not playing, make me skeptical of this team’s offense. 

    Brionna Jones has a lot to prove if she is the starting 5. She has not been particularly effective in her limited minutes in past seasons, with a propensity to foul, below average finishing at the rim at only 51%, and trouble defending in space. She’s undersized for the 5, and is not particularly imposing as a rim protector. She can surprise, as Mercedes Lewis did last year for Seattle, but I am not optimistic.

    Jasmine Thomas is a great example of why the point guard is the hardest position to learn on the court for young players. She was maybe the second most effective point guard in the WNBA last year, something that would have been unexpected prior to the last couple of years. She figured out her shooting the last three years and is an excellent defender. Keeping her in mind when evaluating other young guards like Kelsey Plum and Kelsey Mitchell is worthwhile.

    This team still has the talent to make the playoffs, and even the semifinals. I don’t see them being able to generate enough offense to get much further, but the defense will stay good. Their games may not be the most fun to watch aesthetically speaking, but they will be effective.