Sun

Scorching-Hot Sun Off to Historic Start

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It’s just nine games into the regular season, but the Connecticut Sun have hit the ground running.

Off to the best start in franchise history (9-0), the team hailing from Uncasville has used a combination of veteran stars and a young, dynamic backcourt to propel them atop the standings. The Sun were pretty much the consensus third-best team prior to the start of the season. Yet, they’ve exceeded even those high expectations thus far.

Vets Leading the Way

To no one’s surprise, the WNBA’s favorite couple, Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, have anchored Connecticut.

Thomas is once again nearly averaging a triple double, and Bonner looks as good as ever in her fifteenth season in the league. Throw in a healthy Brionna Jones and that’s one heck of a trio. They’ve all played in the WNBA Finals and have a poise that makes a difference on a team with young players in new roles.

Jones has been steadily working her way back from an Achilles rupture that robbed her of most of the 2023 season. She started the season on a minutes restriction, and is slowly working her way back to a full workload. When Jones is able to obtain position in the post and bury her defender down low, she’s just about automatic.

Thomas is doing what she does best— distributing the ball and doing whatever the team needs on defense. Her ability to guard 1-4 — and against some teams, even 1-5 — allows for so much flexibility within the Sun defense. Her teammates take advantage of her passing ability and are always slashing and dashing to the hoop, to be hit in stride for an easy bucket.

Despite Bonner’s struggles from deep (24%), she’s still leading the team in scoring with 19.1 points per game. At least once a game, Bonner will throw up a shot that goes in that makes the other team say, “Really?”

Rising to the Occasion

In today’s WNBA, it takes more than a superstar or two to win.

You need additional players sliding into important roles to compliment those superstars. For Connecticut, those players have been DiJonai Carrington and Tyasha Harris. Both in full-time starting roles for the first time in their careers, Carrington and Harris have bolstered the backcourt with a combination of defense and playmaking, especially in late-game situations.

Carrington just about set social media ablaze in the season opener. Many new eyes were watching that game against the Indiana Fever because of Caitlin Clark. But they walked away from that game learning about DiJonai Carrington and her stout defense. And since then, she hasn’t slowed down. Every game, Carrington is tasked with guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player. It’s a role she takes a lot of pride in and a role that’s she’s earned. She said as much after a win against Washington on May 17.

“I knew that I had to figure out a way to get on the court, and the way that I figured out to get on the court was to be a lockdown defender. I was with Briann January, Jasmine Thomas and Alyssa Thomas, three of the all-time best defenders in WNBA history. To be able to learn behind them and now I’m getting my opportunity… If you want to play, you find a way to get on the court and that’s what I did.”

Harris Flourishing in New Role

Ty Harris is coming off a season in which she was statistically the best three-point shooter in the league at 46.4%.

But her game is so much more than that.

Head Coach Stephanie White spoke about what she wants to see from Harris if the long ball isn’t falling.

“Continuing to grow and playing that point-guard position. If you’re not knocking down your shots, you gotta create shots for others … And she’s gotta be a great defender. She’s gotta be a really good one on one defender. She’s gotta avoid and evade screens when she’s off the ball. She’s gotta stay locked in on that end of the floor. I think that’s got to be Ty’s biggest growth, on the defensive end. She’s not a surprise anymore. She’s gotta trust her instincts and make the right reads.”

Harris has been superb in late-game situations, hitting a number of late, clutch buckets when Connecticut needed it. Harris very rarely takes a bad shot. She’s able to get to the spots she wants to get to, so that she can take high-efficiency shots. As a fan, you should feel confident anytime Harris puts up a shot. She’s also done a great job taking care of the ball, with a 2.67 assist-to-turnover ratio, according to Her Hoops Stats.

Top of the Class

Not only are the Sun at the top of the standings, they also lead the league in defensive rating at 87.8.

Defensive rating calculates the number of points scored by opponents per 100 possessions. Connecticut uses a combination of quickness, size, strength and versatility to muck things up for opposing offenses. The quickness of the Carrington/Harris backcourt, the size of DeWanna Bonner, the strength of Brionna Jones, and the versatility of Alyssa Thomas are the keys to success.

Getting stops on the defensive end is what allows the offense to thrive the way it does. No one in the league operates in transition as well as Alyssa Thomas. So when she’s able to pull misses off the rim and run, the offense just clicks. The old adage is defense leads to offense and it couldn’t be more true than of a team with Thomas on it.

Room For Improvement

When asked prior to her team’s ninth win of the season, White didn’t even hesitate when asked what she wants to see her troops do better.

“Our field-goal percentage. We’re not shooting the ball particularly well.” Connecticut is currently the worst three-point shooting team in the league, at just 29%. White said it’s a combination of lack of floor spacing and not delivering passes into the shooting pocket to make for open, clean looks. She’s confident the numbers will improve as the season goes on.

Despite the struggles, Bonner isn’t planning to change her game now. Following a good showing (3-5) from deep against Washington on June 4, Bonner made it clear that she isn’t discouraged by the numbers.

“I told you all I was gonna keep shooting and that’s what I planned to do. That’s what shooters do.”

Toughest Tests Yet to Come

While the record looks pretty, Connecticut has some tough games ahead of them.

On Saturday, Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty come to town. Before June is over, the Sun will have completed a west-coast trip in which they will face the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm. These three games will be a good litmus test for where this team is really at. Even considering the 9-0 start, Bonner and Company are far from satisfied. She said as much following the ninth win of the season.

“If we want to be better, if we want to be a top team, we know we have to get better. We know we have a long way to go. We’re not celebrating these wins at all.”

About Kayla Dos Santos

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