DeWanna Bonner just gave the Sun, WNBA Eastern Conference more pizzazz

2019 WNBA Playoffs - Phoenix Mercury v Chicago Sky DeWanna Bonner soon will pack her bags for a trip to Connecticut. The Sun acquired her in a sign-and-trade deal that gives her former team, the Phoenix Mercury, three first-round draft picks in return. | Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun acquired All-Star DeWanna Bonner from the Phoenix Mercury in a sign-and-trade deal that gives the Mercury three first-round draft picks in return.

The Connecticut Sun have acquired All-Star DeWanna Bonner in a sign-and-trade deal that gives the Phoenix Mercury three first-round picks in exchange.

Bonner helped the Mercury to championships in 2009 and 2014. Phoenix struggled thereafter to make it back to the Finals, being bounced two years in a row by the Los Angeles Sparks and, in 2018, surging from an 0-2 deficit in Western Conference Finals to make it a five-game series against the eventual champion Seattle Storm. A 10-year veteran, Bonner averaged 32.9 minutes per game in 2019, second-highest to rookie Napheesa Collier (33.3 minutes). Bonner had little choice but to carry a heavy minutes load for a roster depleted of WNBA scoring leader Diana Taurasi for all but six games, with other key players missing significant time, including Essence Carson, Briann January and Sancho Lyttle. At one point last season, the Mercury had only six players suit up for a game — a point Bonner lamented as a condition that makes winning next to impossible.

The Mercury confirmed that it was Bonner’s decision to move on. General manager Jim Pitman stated in a team press release:

We drafted DeWanna in 2009, and together we won championships in 2009 and 2014. We watched as she became a Sixth Woman of the Year, All-Star, All-WNBA player, and most importantly a mother. Ultimately, she has decided the next stage of her career does not include us and we wish her the best. She and her daughters, Cali and Demi, will always remain a part of the Mercury family.

The scrappy forward is happy to be joining a franchise she believes can contend for a title right now. “I’m excited to play with this talented group and do whatever I can to help this organization hang its first championship banner,” Bonner said. “Nothing is more important to me than winning.”

For Connecticut, this a divide-and-conquer effort achieved. The Mercury bounced the Sun out of the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. Although the Chicago Sky took care of ejecting the Mercury from the playoffs in 2019, it is clear the Sun is not willing to take any chances. By betting on Bonner, the Connecticut gets one of the most versatile players in the WNBA, and one who knows what it takes to win championships. At the same time, the Sun has ended the reign of the Big Three — Bonner, Brittney Griner and Taurasi — in Phoenix.

What happens next in Phoenix could be determined by Griner’s thoughts on averaging 32.8 minutes per game in 2019, third-highest in the league. The first-round draft picks Phoenix got in exchange for Bonner could bring some difference-makers to the Mercury come draft time. However, they won’t have the experience of a veteran like Bonner, so Phoenix fans now must wait to see if Griner is willing to carry an even bigger load in 2020.

Bonner’s arrival in Connecticut makes the Eastern Conference more competitive — great news for fans, but perhaps not so much for the defending champion Washington Mystics, who were pushed to a five-game Finals series without Bonner.