The Connecticut Sun has developed a knack for exceeding expectations in the face of adversity. From the team’s 2019 WNBA finals to its grueling performance in the 2020 bubble and now a record 14-6 during the 2021 Olympic break, the sun continues to force its way into the conversation, even despite the absence of important players.
When a team lacks such players – in this case Jonquel Jones (2020) and Alyssa Thomas (2021) – it usually requires an internal improvement and/or a “next man-up” mentality to keep the team on the same level. . For The Sun, look no further than Brionna Jones – a player who, when Connecticut yearned to replace the production of its stars, seized the moment to keep her team afloat while using her game for some great individual achievements.
Jones, a 6-foot-3 center, entered her fourth season with the Sun in 2020 when it was learned that the perennial All-Star and the highly talented great Jonquel Jones would not be joining the team in the Bradenton bubble. For Brionna Jones, this not only meant a switch to the starting lineup, but also a significant increase in minutes for a team that was far from the deepest in the WNBA.
Jones responded by posting the best marks of her young career by far, more than doubling her typical total playing time, while averaging the best of her career (11.9), rebound (6.9) and steals (1. 7). It was a remarkable leap for someone who had become accustomed to playing behind star-level talent, and Jones was rewarded with a new contract during the ensuing free agency period.
Just as Jones used her earlier opportunity in 2020 to go from a little-used banker to a consistent, full-time starter, she’s upped her game again in 2021, this time to that of a player whose strengths lie in her team’s game plans.
“When you have [Alyssa Thomas] that can help create pace, sometimes we didn’t slow down and didn’t play enough by Bri Jones,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said: from previous Sun teams. “[Jones] always been able. With the loss of Thomas we knew we had to play at a slower pace and analysis supports that.”
It’s true: Jones’ fingerprints are everywhere on Connecticut’s success in 2021. The team slowed the pace significantly, opting to play more through Jones on the pole and play deeper into the shot clock than in previous seasons, which is reflected in the WNBA’s least 76 possession of the sun per 40 minutes. Those possessions, as Miller said, emphasize Jones more than ever: She is currently aiming for 18.3 field goals per 100 possessions, which in turn has led to another leap in scoring (15 points per game).
Jones has also had a significant influence on the glass – which is probably less surprising to those familiar with her game. While it is Jonquel Jones who currently leads the WNBA in individual rebounds (11.1 per game), Brionna Jones’ presence—usually palpable with strong boxouts—is just as crucial as her teammate’s. With Brionna Jones on the field, The Sun provides 76.5 percent of available defensive rebounds; when she sits on the couch, that number drops to 70.4 percent.
In plain English: The Sun won, thanks in large part to their advantage in the paint and on the shelves, which happen to be Jones’ two greatest assets. That’s no coincidence.
People around the WNBA have also taken note of Jones’ improved play. She was named an All-Star for the first time in her career, earning the final roster from the coaches after a preliminary vote of fans, players and media. Honor went a long way in a league dominated by its greats; center is the most stacked position in the WNBA, and Jones has carved her own niche among the best of the best. That’s something to admire.
Can the Sun’s formula of slow, rough basketball win a championship? Stranger things have happened. Connecticut may appear to be beaten by some of the bigger-name WNBA teams on their roster, but the Sun has already beaten the Las Vegas Aces (currently half a game ahead of Connecticut in the standings) twice by successfully completing the game. “mess it up”. Even if the sun doesn’t make it to their ultimate goal this season, there’s new hope for the foreseeable future: Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner, and Alyssa Thomas will finally all be active at the same time, and they’ll be joined by Brionna Jones, who is quietly but steadily growing up. has become one of the WNBA’s most effective centers.