Connecticut has been off to a blazing start to this WNBA Season. The Sun currently sit comfortably at the top of the league (8-1) with three of these wins coming against three projected title-contenders: the Las Vegas Aces, the Los Angeles Sparks and a very surprising Seattle Storm team. So, how did the Sun turn the page so quickly and start the season off this strong?
The Emergence of Courtney Williams
One of the reasons why the Sun seem so dominant this year is the play of their guards. More specifically, the play of 4th year vet Courtney Williams. Coming into the 2019 Season, many questioned how the Sun would respond amidst of their second round playoff exit last year. Well, Courtney Williams has responded with an amazing start to the season.
After 7 games, the 5’8 guard is on pace to average career highs in points (14.7 ppg), rebounds (6 rpg) and assists (3.3 apg). Williams’s ability to rebound the basketball is a valuable asset to the Sun’s system. She pulls down boards and immediately creates transition opportunities for a loaded offensively gifted team. For the Sun to make a deep playoff push come September, Williams has to be good and she has been great.
The return of 2017 JJ
In late 2016, Chiney suffered a ruptured Achilles while playing overseas in China which caused her to miss the entirety of the 2017 WNBA Season. Jonquel Jones found herself doing a lot of the heavy lifting in that season. She stepped and averaged 15.4 ppg and 11.9 rpg that season. By the end of the season JJ earned the 2017 Most Improved Player Award and was named an All-Star.
In early 2019, Chiney Ogwumike was traded to the LA Sparks and there were questions about how this could impact this trade could impact the Sun. JJ has put away all doubt that she is one of the premiere players in this league. Jones is playing in All-Star form, posting 17.2 ppg and 12 rpg and 2.7 bpg. All of which would be career highs.
Jonquel Jones has already won Eastern Conference Player of the Week three times for this WNBA campaign. Another reason for her continued development is that Curt Miller has given JJ the greenlight to let it fly from deep. She is averaging 5 attempts a game from 3. If she continues at this rate, she will surpass her career high in attempts around the 25-game mark of the season. She has hit a career-low 32.5% of those threes. But Jones has shown the ability to hit those threes and teams have to respect that. JJ is taking another step forward this year and it makes the Sun very very scary.
The versatility on offense
Aside from JJ’s ability to score from almost everywhere on the floor and Courtney Williams’s development, the rest of the Sun have stepped up. It seems like whenever you have them figured out, there is another weapon that they pull out of their arsenal. That has made the Sun a very intriguing matchup for oppositions. Curt Miller has had the luxury of Shekinna Strickland has been a constant threat from three point range. Her best game came on June 2nd in the win versus Las Vegas where she scored 15 points and went 4/9 from three point range.
Rebounding leading to Transition
Led by Jonquel Jones, the Sun average 42 total rebounds per contest which ranks second in the league. Combining the Sun stifling defense and their ability to rebound the ball, Connecticut is a nightmare matchup when it comes to their transition game. More rebounds lead to more fast break opportunities and Curt Miller has made it a point to get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. This allows players like Courtney Williams, Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas to do what they do best which is to play freely and have the freedom to create and make plays in the open court.
The Sun had some to rest between games, which Coach Miller felt would be very welcomed.
“We are excited to finish off that tough stretch with a win tonight. Our fifth game in 11 days, never in the same location twice,” said Coach Miller after the win on Sunday night versus the Storm. “We really grinded through that first nine games. So they are sitting in that room excited about their two days off, I’m sure.”
Connecticut is back in action on Friday June 21st at the Mohegan. They will look to keep the momentum going versus a reeling Atlanta Dream (1-5). The Sun are hoping continue their 2019 dominance and notched their 13th consecutive win at home dating from last season.