Who Is The Sun’s Most Important Player?


The Connecticut Sun were well-represented at All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Their three headed monster of Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, and Alyssa Thomas were all selected as All-Stars. None of these selections came as a surprise to WNBA fans. The Joneses and Thomas have been leading the way for the fourth place Sun. Coming off her Most Valuable Player season, it was a foregone conclusion that JJ would be the most important part of this team. Is that actually the case? Or have one of Brionna Jones or Thomas garnered that status?

The Case for Jonquel Jones

JJ isn’t quite having the same caliber season that she did a year ago, but she’s still near the top of most statistical categories. One of the most dominant bigs in the game, she ranks third in total rebounds per game, at nine. She’s also averaging 15.1 points and 1.2 blocks per game.

At the start of the season, Jones had a couple games where her shot attempts were way down. There was a three game stretch early in the season in which Jones mustered just 12 shot attempts. Thankfully for the Sun, Jones flipped a switch at some point and has shown up in most games as the MVP caliber player that they need her to be.

What’s a Win Share?

Jones ranks ninth in the league in win shares at 3.8. Win shares is an advanced statistic that approximates the total number of wins a player produces for their team through their play on the offensive and defensive end of the court. If you were to pull up the win shares rankings, every year you would find the top players in the league, and the players at the forefront of award discussions, near the top of the rankings. That’s probably not a coincidence.

There’s been plenty of games this season where you watch and say, “Of course Jonquel is the most important player on this team.. look at her.” In the first game following the All-Star break, Jones came out swinging and recorded a double-double before halftime. She finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks. She could be that kind of player on any given night and that’s why she’s in this conversation.

The Case for Brionna Jones

Let’s get back to this win shares statistic. To put the importance of win shares as it relates to MVP awards into perspective, the last time a player led the league in win shares and did not win MVP, it was in 2013 when Candace Parker won the award, despite ranking third. Every year since, the league leader in win shares was named the MVP.

Guess who currently ranks second in win shares. That’s right, it’s Brionna Jones. With 4.6 win shares, she’s tied with A’ja Wilson, and she trails only Breanna Stewart. Considering Stewart and Wilson are the two MVP frontrunners, Jones has inserted herself in the conversation as one of the most impactful players in the league.

A center who would be a starter on most teams, Jones is coming off the bench. In past years, bench depth has been quite the kryptonite for the Sun. With Courtney Williams returning and Thomas finally healthy, Head Coach, Curt Miller, is able to utilize Jones off the bench. She’s consistently provided a great spark for them in that role. Jones is still averaging 26.1 minutes per game.

Miss Efficiency

Currently, she’s averaging 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Jones is one of the more efficient post players in the league. She’s shooting 56.6% from the floor this season, which ranks sixth in the league. She has a knack for tracking down offensive rebounds, as she ranks third in the league in offensive rebounding, with 2.5 offensive rebounds per game.

Jones has had an impressive career glow up. Her first few seasons in the league were very underwhelming. She never averaged more than nine minutes per game prior to 2020. Then, in 2020, when the Sun were without JJ due to the impact of the pandemic, Jones arrived on the scene averaging 26.1 minutes and 11.2 points per game. She’s now transformed herself into a player the Sun can ill afford to lose.

The Case for Alyssa Thomas

Very early in the season, Thomas was in some MVP talks. In the first two games of the season, she scored 25 and 23 points. She’s had a few standout scoring games throughout the season, but what makes Thomas special isn’t her scoring. It’s literally everything else she does. While she’s averaging 12.6 points per game, she also ranks sixth in the league in assists at 5.6, and seventh in the league in rebounds at 7.8. She’s the only non-guard in the top ten on the assists leaderboard.

We’re going to revisit win shares just one more time. With AT tied for sixth on that leaderboard at 3.6, the Sun are the only team in the league with three players in the top ten. It goes to show how vital the three of them are to the Sun’s success.

Point AT

When starting point guard, Jasmine Thomas, went down with a knee injury in the fifth game of the season, there were questions of who would get those point guard minutes. This question was partially answered when Miller, stated that they’d be trying out a “big” lineup. That lineup would have AT playing the point. Per PBP Stats, in 71 minutes, this lineup has been successful. Their Net Rating is 17.47. While it’s unconventional, it’s getting the job done. And AT is the biggest reason why.

With that being said, this lineup also has some downsides. Since AT isn’t used to a traditional facilitating role as a point guard, she’s averaging 2.9 turnovers per game. She is no doubt sacrificing some of her skills to play in that role. But it’s clear that Miller isn’t super confident in running out any back up point guard when Natisha Hiedeman is on the bench for a long period of time.

AT’s ability and willingness to do what her team needs her to do is what puts her in this conversation for the Sun’s most important player. If she wasn’t able to step into that point guard role, it’s tough to say who would be getting those minutes. Probably rookie, Nia Clouden, but’s hard to imagine that the Sun would be getting better minutes from Clouden, who hasn’t really found her footing in the league yet.

One Goal

At the end of the day, these three players don’t care who’s the “most important” player, or who gets the credit. The three of them have been with this organization for their entire careers. They all experienced the heartbreak in 2019 after losing in the Finals to the Washington Mystics.

They all experienced the heartbreak last season after losing to the Chicago Sky in the semi-finals after a dominant regular season. None of them have personal accolades on their minds right now. The only thing on their minds is raising a banner in Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time in franchise history. But that doesn’t mean Sun fans can’t have a little fun with this discussion. It’s important to note that “most important” doesn’t necessarily mean “best.” Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, and Alyssa Thomas all have valid reasons as to why they’re the most important.

JJ because she’s no doubt the most talented. Brionna Jones because she’s providing a much needed spark off the bench and impacting the game the most on both ends. And AT because she’s adapting her game to give the team exactly what they need.

If the Sun are going to reach their goal, they’ll need all three of them to be at the top of their games, in their respective roles, from now until the end of September.

About Kayla Dos Santos

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