Sun

Chef Breezy And The Race That Isn’t Close

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This isn’t the first campaign season for the Connecticut Sun. They’re widely known to be one of the better teams in the WNBA as far as campaigning for their players during award season. Right now, they are full steam ahead pushing for Brionna Jones to be the Sixth Player of the Year. Jones is no stranger to award season. After all, she was named the Most Improved Player in 2021. Now, she’s leading the race to win her second end-of-season award in as many seasons.

This year’s campaign is a clever one. It revolves around “Chef Breezy.” In the Sun’s posts, fans can see what “ingredients,” or stats, as we like to call them, make up the “recipe” for a Sun win. There were numerous photo shoots done, and the Sun even put together a booklet consisting of these “recipes” and photo shoots to send to some voters. They didn’t mess around.

Step 1: The Stats

Now let’s move onto the important stuff, the stats. In 25.2 minutes per game, Jones is averaging 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals, coming off the bench for the Sun. Most of Jones’ shots come from right around the basket, so she’s also an efficient scorer, at 56.9%. Her most impressive stat is that she’s averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks second. She has a knack for tracking down her teammates’ misses, and other teams know it too.

It’s been pointed out that other teams are so focused on preventing offensive rebounds for Jones, that it sometimes opens up space for her smaller teammates to sneak in and grab rebounds themselves.

Win shares isn’t exactly a beloved stat for basketball aficionados, but year in and year out, the best players are always at the top of that leaderboard. It’s not a stat that should be the end all be all, but it usually tells the story of how impactful a player is. This year, only Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, the top two Most Valuable Player candidates, rank above Jones in win shares. Jones is tied with her teammate, Alyssa Thomas, for third on the list.

Jones also does a great job getting to the line. She attempted the seventh most free throws in the league, and shot them efficiently, at 84.4%.

Step 2: The Spark

Everyone knows that Jones would be a starter on nearly every team in the WNBA. She’s asserted herself as a top center over the last two seasons. She just happens to play on the same team as two other monster front court players, in Jonquel Jones and AT. Because of this, Jones comes off the bench for Head Coach, Curt Miller, and provides a spark like no other.

There are even games where Miller has so much confidence in Jones, that she’s closing games over last year’s MVP, Jonquel Jones. Miller has spoken about how this is primarily matchup based and dependent on the flow of the game. Jones is so impactful that she makes Miller question whether or not to have a league MVP on the bench in the final minutes of a close home. How many other Sixth Player of the Year candidates can say that?

Jones has had a pretty firm grip on the award for the majority of the season. But let’s look at some other players in the conversation, shall we?

Step 3: The Competition

The Chicago Sky have found themselves with two solid candidates in Azurá Stevens and Rebekah Gardner. Stevens is averaging 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. While the 32-year-old rookie, Gardner, is averaging 8.5 points and 1.4 steals per game. Gardner also plays terrific defense and has found herself closing some games for Head Coach, James Wade, for that reason.

Han Xu has been incredible for the New York Liberty and has quickly become a fan favorite, providing exactly what the team has needed off the bench. Another player who might get some love in this category is Aari McDonald, of the Atlanta Dream. She’s averaging 11.1 points and 2.5 assists per game.

There’s been plenty of good players coming off the bench this season, as there always is. But none of them compare to what Jones has done this season. If she needed another point of emphasis to add to her argument, Jones was the only bench player selected to the All-Star Team. Every other All-Star was a starter on their respective teams.

Step 4: The Support

Miller has made his thoughts on this award clear since midway through the season, but prior to their last regular season games against the Lynx, he was asked his thoughts on the Sixth Player of the Year race.

“It’s over. If Bri Jones doesn’t win the Sixth Player of the Year Award, it’s criminal. She’s done everything we can ask for. She just dominates in her minutes. I think that’s about as easy an award choice as there is this year.”

Her teammates have said all season that Jones has been a true professional coming off the bench, when everyone knows she’s a starter anywhere else. Natisha Hiedeman said as much, following their final regular season game.

“Whatever the task at hand is, she takes it on with a positive attitude. And I think that really rubs off on me and everybody. I know 10 out of 10 times when I pass to her, it’s going in. I don’t even know who else is up for the award, but she better get it. Because, I mean, all the numbers prove it. She’s a great player, a great teammate, and she’s very deserving.”

The Final Product

It’s been an incredible season for Jones for the second year in a row. It puts her in the same conversation as her teammate, Jonquel Jones, who won Most Improved Player and Sixth Player of the Year in back to back seasons (2017 and 2018). After winning Most Improved Player in 2021, Brionna Jones is looking to do the exact same. This trajectory is great news for Jones, since JJ later went on the win MVP.

This time of year, there’s always discussions, and even arguments, on social media, surrounding these awards. This is one award that probably doesn’t need all that much discussion. And as Miller said, it’s probably the easiest award for the voters to decide on this season. Jones made it easy for them. Say thank you, voters.

Chef Breezy has cooked herself up one heck of a five star, three course meal, of a season, on her way to winning Sixth Player of the Year. And she deserves every piece of credit coming her way.

All stats courtesy of Her Hoops Stats, unless otherwise noted.

About Kayla Dos Santos

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