Sun

Addressing the Sun’s Biggest Issue Through the Draft

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With the madness of the NCAA Tournament upon us, this also means the WNBA is on the not-so-distant horizon.

The draft is when teams — and fans alike — assess the previous season’s success (and shortcomings). It’s the time of the year when every team has faith that the stars will align and the basketball gods will deliver them the next Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Candace Parker or A’ja Wilson.

The Indiana Fever have all but started printing jerseys for presumed number one overall pick Caitlin Clark, but how does the rest of the first round shake out – particularly for the Connecticut Sun?

For a team that has boasted an MVP, Sixth Player of the Year, multiple All-Star selections and has been one of the most successful and consistent teams in the league over the last seven seasons, a WNBA title has continued to elude them.

When diving into the numbers, there isn’t anything glaringly wrong with the Sun’s 2023 team:

  • 82.7 points per game (good for fourth in the league)
  • 44.5% from the field (third)
  • 36% from three (fourth)
  • 103.2 offensive rating (fourth)
  • 53% true scoring percentage (third)
  • 98.8 defensive rating (second)
  • 50.5% rebound percentage (fourth)

But the most conspicuous issue with the Connecticut Sun as constructed last season was their pace-per-40 factor. For those unaware, the pace per 40 is the measure of possessions a team gets per 40 minutes with the goal of gauging how fast a team plays. While the pace per 40 does not have a direct correlation to winning, it provides insight into the construction and identity of a team.

The Sun had the third-lowest pace in the league at 79.28, edging out only the 13-win Fever and nine-win Phoenix Mercury in 2023. This is a stark contrast to the 2023 Las Vegas Aces, who were second in the league with an 82.15 pace per 40. Couple their pace with a league-leading 113.0 offensive rating and a league-leading 97.7 defensive rating, the ingredients for a championship recipe are revealed.

What does this mean for the Sun going into the draft? The Sun need scoring. Dynamic scoring, at that. Jack Maloney of CBS Sports has Connecticut selecting Georgia Amoore*, guard out of Virginia Tech, while ESPN’s Michael Voepel has the Sun taking Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon. Unironically, two of the best scorers in the nation. Increase the number of possessions while simultaneously increasing the number of points scored on those possessions is what the Sun need to aim to do in this draft.

Amoore averaged 19.2 and 6.9 assists in her senior year at Virginia Tech, shooting nearly 42% from the field and 34% from three. For a team that is driven by Alyssa Thomas, an ability to spot up and shoot off the catch is a welcomed sight for the Sun. But additionally, Amoore’s seven assists per game (fourth best in all of D1 women’s basketball) would allow for a more evenly distributed ball-handling load between her, Tyasha Harris and Thomas. Her 2023-24 offensive rating of 110.7 is comparable to Betnijah Laney-Hamilton’s (110.9) and is higher than All-Stars Satou Sabally (109.3) and Arike Ogunbowale (108.0).

Jacy Sheldon bounced back from an injury riddled 2022-23 season to put up some of the best numbers of her collegiate career in 2023-24— 18 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. While less of a facilitator than Amoore, the Buckeyes guard was an efficient scorer, shooting 50.9% from the field and 38% from three. Sheldon’s 117.9 offensive rating this past season would have been the highest in the WNBA in 2023, edging out Kelsey Plum (117.4) and A’ja Wilson (116.1).

The 2024 iteration of this Connecticut team will be vastly different than last year’s team. The core pieces of Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones remain, but the Sun lost Tiffany Hayes to retirement and Rebecca Allen and Natisha Hiedeman to trade. Additionally they brought in Rachel Banham, Tiffany Mitchell and Moriah Jefferson to round out the roster.

The Sun are, for better or worse, in a precarious position. Because of their perennial success in the regular season, they have not been in the position to draft some of the top talent in the draft over the last decade or so. Fortunately for the Sun, the 2024 draft boasts a breadth of depth and talent which will give the Sun an opportunity to add a true scorer to increase pace and space. These are exciting times across the league, but this year’s draft is well-timed for a Connecticut Sun team poised to make a run.

*Georgia Amoore has not officially declared for the WNBA Draft and still has a year of eligibility due to the COVID year.

About Johnell Pannell

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