Sun May Look to Select Three-Point Threat


Back in January, the Connecticut Sun had accumulated two first-round draft picks.

Now β€” on the dawn of the 2023 WNBA Draft β€” they have none.

While many teams will be looking to add potential All-Star talent to their roster Monday night, the Sun won’t make their first pick until late in the second round.

Here’s a quick recap on how they got in this position:

  • January 15th: In a three-team trade, the Sun sent 2021 league MVP Jonquel Jones to the New York Liberty. In return they received the sixth overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, as well as guards Rebecca Allen and Ty Harris.
  • January 16th: Sun traded point guard Jasmine Thomas and their tenth overall pick to the Los Angeles Sparks. They received Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Jasmine Walker, and the rights to Kianna Smith.
  • February 9th: Connecticut traded the sixth pick they had previously obtained from New York to the Atlanta Dream in return for veteran guard Tiffany Hayes.

With no first-round picks and limited prospects to choose from, where does this leave the Sun?

Thankfully, Connecticut is a veteran-led squad with an established core group of players. Their only major loss in free agency was Jonquel Jones. Her absence, however, is somewhat mitigated by the return of 2022 6th Player of the Year Brionna Jones, who is expected to play a larger role.

This isn’t a team that desperately needed first-round talent. The Sun still have one of the best frontcourts in the league and their backcourt was strengthened by the acquisition of Hayes, Allen and Harris. They do still hold the 22nd and 34th picks in a 36-player draft, though.

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It’s unlikely, but if any South Carolina graduates (Zia Cooke, Brea Beal or Laeticia Amihere) are somehow available at the 22nd pick, Connecticut may pounce at the opportunity (this is excluding presumed No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston of course).

The Sun’s new general manager, Darius Taylor, was an assistant coach for Dawn Staley‘s South Carolina Gamecocks from 2010 to 2015. He’s already shown interest in bringing in alumni of the program, trading for Ty Harris and signing Mikiah Herbert Harrigan to a training-camp contract. It’s also possible Connecticut takes fifth-year senior Victaria Saxton with the 34th pick. Many have her projected a third-round selection.

Another role the Sun may be looking to fulfill in this draft is that of a three-point threat. They finished second to last in the league in three pointers made last season.

The three most potent shooters from beyond the arc in this draft are UConn’s Lou Lopez-Senechal, Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell and Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson. Lopez-Senechal and Mikesell are both projected as mid-to-late first rounders or early second rounders.

That leaves only Robertson, who may very well be available. A staggering 83.6% of her shots came from the three-point line this past season, where she shot an efficient 43.5%. Even more staggering is her consistency over the course of her career. She’s a career 44% three-point shooter and leads all of Division I β€” men and women β€” with a career 537 three-point field goals made.

Cap Space

The Sun have $62,285 left in cap space, enough cash to sign one more player to their roster. The problem is the rookie-scale contract for a 2023 second-round pick is $65,290 under the WNBA’s CBA.

Therefore, the Sun are currently unable to sign their second-round pick. If the draftee were to impress at training camp, Connecticut could potentially waive a contracted player in the rookie’s favor. The most-likely option would be 2022 first-round pick Nia Clouden. She has a similar salary of $67,634 and her contract is unprotected, but it’s improbable they’d give up a past first-round selection for a second-round pick.

Looking Ahead

The only player in Connecticut’s “core three” of Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner who is still under contract for next season is Thomas. Bonner will assumably extend her stay with the franchise but Jones is a wild card. Two-time All-Star Tiffany Hayes is also only under a one-season contract.

While Thomas is an extraordinary athlete who has the ability to put a team on her back, it won’t be enough to make up for the potential loss of three starters. The Sun will therefore need to be much more reliant on the draft to keep them afloat.

2024 WNBA Draft

Luckily, the 2024 WNBA Draft is shaping up to be what many are calling, the best draft class in WNBA history. With players like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Paige Bueckers, Ayoke Lee and Cameron Brink, there will be no shortage of college superstars available. Some of these All-Americans may opt to use their COVID year, but there should still be a strong mix regardless.

While nothing is certain in the WNBA, Connecticut is shaping up to finish in the top half of the league. With the talent they have returning from a run to the 2022 WNBA Finals in addition to the new pieces they have coming in, the Sun will be no easy foe. Based on that assumption, they’ll most likely make their first pick around the 7th-to-10th selection of the first round.

If frontcourt All-Stars Jones and Bonner decide to move on from the Sun, drafting a new big to fill in their shoes will be paramount. There’s 6-foot-3′Aaliyah Edwards who had dominant season for UConn. She may fall into the latter part of the first round due to the likes of other exceptional forwards such as Reese, Brink, and Lee. 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso of South Carolina also has great upside and is an exceptional rebounder.

If it’s guard play the Sun seek out, North Carolina’s point guard Deja Kelly β€” although not a very efficient shooter β€” can put up big numbers and has proven to be very clutch. Tennessee standout Rickea JacksonΒ would also make any team happy. She has a pro-ready physique and scores at a high rate, averaging 19.2 points per game this past season.

Expansion Soon?

The popularity of women’s college basketball has skyrocketed this past season, posting blockbuster viewership numbers. While this is great news, the WNBA must capitalize on this increased engagement with the sport.

Growing the WNBA’s brand and negotiating new TV deals are of great importance but equally crucial is the need for expansion. Fans have been calling for the expansion of the league to different cities for years. Besides franchises relocating, there has not been a new franchise added to the league in 15 years.

There’s cause for concern when some of the greatest players in college have no urgency to enter the league. This is mainly due to the introduction of NIL.

Another key reason players delay entering the league, however, is because the odds of making a team are slim. To put this into perspective, six of the twelve first-round picks from the 2021 WNBA Draft are not currently signed.

There are only 144 spots in the league. That is nowhere near the amount of great women’s basketball players in the world.

WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert says expansion is on the way. “We’re not in a rush. I’d like to do it by 25ish (2025)” she said at an event in Portland, Oregon on February 6th.

In relation to the need for expansion, it has been reported that the NBA’s new CBA will allow players to invest in the WNBA. This is massive news as we’ve already seen NBA players invest in other women’s professional leagues like the NWSL.

The future for the WNBA is looking incredibly bright.

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About Ethan Arcata

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