No Matter What Happens in the Playoffs, 2020 was a Win for Connecticut

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Coming off a Finals appearance last year, there were high hopes for the Connecticut Sun in 2020. And then a pandemic hit. Multiple WNBA players opted out of the ‘wubble’ due to health concerns, including Connecticut star Jonquel Jones. When the season finally started after months of delay, the Sun went winless in their first five games.

Since then, Connecticut holds an impressive 10-6 record over the last 16 match-ups (10-11 overall) and has secured a playoff spot.

2020 has been unpredictable, to say the least. I’m not going to make any assumptions or predictions about the postseason because who knows what is going to happen. The Sun have overcome a lot of adversity to be one of the eight playoff teams. No matter what happens the rest of the season, 2020 was a win for head coach Curt Miller and his team for multiple reasons. 

DeWanna Bonner

Three-time WNBA All-Star DeWanna Bonner was traded to Connecticut this offseason after spending 10 seasons with the Phoenix Mercury, with whom she won two WNBA Championships with. 

Bonner was the star sixth man in Phoenix. She won the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year award three times, becoming the only player in league history to win it as many times. In 2020, Bonner turned from a Sixth Man into Connecticut’s Most Valuable Player (and in the conversation for the league’s MVP!). 

“She’s been huge for us. She is a competitor like myself,” teammate Alyssa Thomas said. “She wants to win. She came here to win a championship. I’m super happy to finally have her on our side.”

Bonner is a huge leader for the Sun. She makes up 42 percent of Connecticut’s total points this season, averaging 19.9 points per game. In comparison with the rest of the league, Bonner ranks fourth in points and minutes per game (33.1), as well as sixth in overall efficiency (0.87). 

On the defensive end, Bonner ranks fifth in steals (1.8) and seventh in defensive rebounds (6.2). Bonner has also won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice this season for her efforts.

The Sun would not have turned their winless season around without Bonner’s efforts this summer. This trade not only helped the franchise win in 2020, but for many years to come. 

Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa Thomas has been a key contributor for the Sun the past six seasons. She is responsible for 39 percent of the Sun’s scoring in 2020, averaging 15.8 points on 50.2 percent shooting in 33.3 minutes. In addition to her shooting, AT also averages 4.9 assists a game and ranks fourth in the league in overall efficiency (1.238). She also earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week once this season.

“There is no one I rather go to war with. There is no one I rather step on that court with every night,” Bonner said on AT. “There is no doubt in my mind that every single game she is going to play 110% so that makes me want to play even harder.”

In addition to her offensive contributions, AT is a strong candidate for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. She is averaging a WNBA-leading 2.0 steals per game in addition to 7.0 defensive rebounds, which ranks sixth in the league. 

“If there is a better defender than Alyssa Thomas in the league…who?” Miller said of AT. “She is going to be high in steals. She is a great defensive rebounder. We ask everything of her. Switch on to great guards, guard great post players. If there is a better defender in the league than Alyssa Thomas, I don’t see it.” 

“She always has it, her defense is just incredible. I’ve played against it and it’s not fun. I’m just happy to be next to her every night,” Bonner said.

The combination of AT and DB is deadly. If you double-team one, you better watch out for the other. Miller heavily relies on this duo because they are so consistent on both ends of the floor. 

Other Solid Veterans: Jones, January, & Thomas

In addition to Bonner and AT, the Sun have created a solid foundation of other veterans on this 2020 squad. 

Brionna Jones is averaging career-highs this season for the Sun. She has started 20 games for Connecticut and is contributing 11.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. In her first three seasons with the Sun, Jones did not start a game and did not average more than 3.5 points per contest. She averaged just eight minutes per game, which has improved to 26.2 in 2020.

Briann January was traded to the Sun in 2020 after spending her first 12 WNBA seasons with the Mercury (2) and Indiana Fever (10). With 4.9 points and 3.4 assists per game, the WNBA champion has helped break up the offensive load for DB and AT.

In sixth years with Connecticut, Jasmine Thomas has continued to be a consistent player for the Sun. This season she is averaging 26.7 minutes per game, contributing 10.8 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals. 

Rookies with Potential

In addition to the Sun’s solid veterans, there are two rookies on the Sun with serious potential: Kaila Charles and Beatrice Mompremier.

Last week, I went into detail on how Charles could be the steal of the 2020 draft. The former Maryland Terp has started seven games for the Sun and is averaging 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game.

Against one of the top teams in the league, the Las Vegas Aces, Mompremier put up an impressive game with 16 rebounds, six points, and four blocks off the bench. The Miami alumna is averaging 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 points per game.

“Both have a future with the Sun and we are pleased with their progression in a season where it is not real easy to put in the time to get better,” Miller said of his two rookies.

Questions Left to Be Asked

The Sun are just the third team in WNBA history to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-5 or worse, joining the 2012 New York Liberty team and the 2015 Los Angeles Sparks team. Can this team continue their momentum through the playoffs? How will this team work in 2021? Where does Jonquel Jones fit in with this roster? Will Connecticut have another bad start next season or was that just the delayed season/wubble effect? 

These questions can only be answered with time. For now, the Connecticut Sun have the playoffs to worry about.

“I’m excited. This what we ultimately wanted to accomplish and thought we could,” Miller said. “The grittiness to come together after that start. We never panicked. We will get to work and keep grinding and building together.”

“I’m sure a lot of people counted us out when we were 0-5, but for this team to stay with it and grind it out, push for playoffs, it is huge for Connecticut,” Bonner added. “We are getting there. So now we can see what we can do. It says a lot about the character of this team, Connecticut, the organization, and how we bounce back. Definitely proud of everyone.”

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