2021 WNBA Free Agency: Time for the Sun to fuel ‘The Engine’

Connecticut Sun v Las Vegas Aces - Game Five
Alyssa Thomas battled through torn labra in both shoulders and still became one of the best players in the WNBA. | Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun have a star trio in DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas that has potential to hang with other WNBA super teams. But they need to pay all three players like superstars to bring them together.

The Connecticut Sun desperately want to test out their big three of DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. To do so, they will need Thomas, an unrestricted free agent, to re-sign with the team, but she is due for a big pay day.

The Sun acquired Bonner last offseason in a sign-and-trade, but Jones opted out of the 2020 WNBA season due to COVID concerns, leaving the Sun with a star duo instead of trio. When it was Jones and Thomas leading the show in 2019, Connecticut was one win away from a WNBA championship and Sun fans were left wondering if the team could have hoisted the trophy had all three stars suited up in 2020.

Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller’s goal this year is to make sure fans have nothing to wonder about this time around, which means re-signing Thomas is the No. 1 priority.

The Sun struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor in 2020 and finished with a 10-12 record before making a surge to the semifinal round of the playoffs. Jones will rectify many of the offensive woes, but the team could still use another 3-point threat to improve upon its 31.1-percent shooting from distance last season, which ranked 11th in the league.

By the numbers

Free agents (type) (average salary)

  • Bria Holmes (unrestricted) ($130,000)
  • Jasmine Thomas (unrestricted) ($118,500)
  • Alyssa Thomas (unrestricted) ($115,000)
  • Theresa Plaisance (unrestricted) ($103,333)
  • Essence Carson (unrestricted) ($85,000)
  • Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (unrestricted) ($68,232)
  • Brionna Jones (restricted) ($68,000)

Total average salary of free agents: $688,065

Total team salary (not including above players): $594,446

Cap space: $744,554


Las Vegas Aces v Connecticut Sun - Game Three
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
From left to right: DeWanna Bonner, Brionna Jones, Jasmine Thomas and Alyssa Thomas huddle during A. Thomas’ heroic effort in Game 3 of the 2020 semifinals.

The Sun have enough cap space to re-sign everyone if their salaries were to all remain the same. However, Alyssa Thomas deserves a lot more money. With DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones already making the supermax and the max, respectively, one would think Thomas’ salary will be right up there with those players on her new contract.

Thomas is eligible for the supermax and has more experience in the league than J. Jones. Seeing as she has carried the Sun through the past two postseasons and seems to be improving at age 28, A. Thomas may deserve it. The torn labra in her shoulders factor in questions about her durability, though.

On Connecticut’s list of free agents, Brionna Jones stands out as another player who deserves a pay raise. She was on the outskirts of the Most Improved Player discussion since she upped her playing time and numbers significantly. The jury was still out on B. Jones entering the 2020 season, but it’s now clear that she is a solid contributor who is on the rise at age 25. So, she will likely be making a lot more than her base salary of $68,000 from last year.

But will she be on the Sun with Jasmine Thomas also being a huge priority?

J. Thomas is 31 years old and her scoring average has been on the decline since it peaked at 14.2 in 2017. She did have one monster game in 2020 — 31 points in the playoffs — and she is certainly capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night. If her pay remains the same, Connecticut may be able to keep her.

One obvious move for the Sun is to not re-sign Theresa Plaisance. She is making just over $100,000, didn’t contribute much last year and letting her go leaves Connecticut with 12 players. Pay increases for A. Thomas and B. Jones, when added together, will likely be $10,000 to $30,000 over the $100,000 Plaisance is making, so there will still be more work to be done if Connecticut wants to keep J. Thomas.

As for the other free agents, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had an off year in 2020, Essence Carson is aging and Bria Holmes is pretty expensive at $130,000.

The Sun already have signed young, inexpensive players Natisha Hiedeman and Beatrice Mompremier to training camp contracts and second-year player Kaila Charles ($60,946) is likely a keeper, too. Hopefully those three (in addition to other young players) can take big leaps forward and provide depth to a roster that may be without some of the players who are free agents.

Hiedeman, a guard who can play the point, has shown enough promise to settle down Sun fans about the prospect of losing J. Thomas. She not only put up solid numbers in her second year for a No. 18 draft pick out of a mid-major, she is also tough and clutch.

Sources: Her Hoop Stats and spotrac