The Sun’s new ‘Big Three’ will bring the heat to Uncasville, Connecticut

Las Vegas Aces v Phoenix Mercury DeWanna Bonner will be in orange still but on the other side of the country. | Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

With the acquisition of DeWanna Bonner, the Connecticut Sun — with franchise staples Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas — look to be a WNBA title-contender in 2020.

The Connecticut Sun, who are coming off a five-game WNBA Finals series in 2019, have their two best players returning in Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. They formed a power trio by signing free agent DeWanna Bonner on Feb. 11.

Bonner played her first 10 seasons with the Phoenix Mercury.

Jones, who re-signed to a multi-year contract with the Sun on Feb. 10, is the unquestioned superstar on the team. The driving and shooting talents of the 6-foot-6 center allowed her to become one of the best players in the league last year. Meanwhile, Bonner, a 6-foot-4 forward who has similar talents, averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in 2019 and was selected as an All-Star for the third time in four seasons.

It was Jones’ second All-Star appearance in three seasons.

Thomas is more of an unconventional star who has lost nearly all semblance of a mid-range shot because of shoulder injuries. To compensate, she has become an incredibly fast and physical point-forward.

The Sun have lost 3-point specialist Shekinna Stricklen — winner of the All-Star 3-Point Contest last year — to the Atlanta Dream on Feb. 16. But on Monday, Connecticut traded for Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who will fill in as a long-distance threat. Mosqueda-Lewis was a bench player for five years with the Seattle Storm so she hasn’t been putting up as many 3-point shots as Stricklen. Yet, she is just as talented from beyond the arc.

Connecticut’s spark plug from last year’s Finals, 5-foot-8 guard Courtney Williams, also signed with the Dream in free agency (Feb. 19). Her positive energy and 13.2 points per game will be hard to replace. But she is on the short side for a two-guard and the 5-foot-11 Mosqueda-Lewis is a taller option who can start at the two. Meanwhile, Connecticut will have solid point guard play from veterans Jasmine Thomas and Briann January, the latter of whom was traded from the Mercury on Feb. 19.

Connecticut also re-signed second-year player Natisha Hiedeman (Feb. 10) and solid bench contributor Bria Holmes (Feb. 15); the Sun signed fourth-year player Jazmon Gwathmey on Tuesday.

The Sun have parted ways with Layshia Clarendon (signed with the New York Liberty) Morgan Tuck (traded to the Seattle Storm) and Rachel Banham (traded to the Minnesota Lynx).

The future

Connecticut’s two picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft are No. 23 and No. 35 overall. Neither Jasmine Thomas nor January is a true star, so Sun head coach Curt Miller could go for Crystal Dangerfield of the UConn Huskies or Minyon Moore of the Oregon Ducks if either is available in the later draft rounds. Maryland’s Kaila Charles is a talented late-second-round option as well, but Connecticut already has a dominant point-forward.

In 2020, expect point-forward Alyssa Thomas to naturally do what she does, which is wreak havoc on defense and create opportunities in transition. Meanwhile, Miller will need to focus on getting Jones and Bonner to complement each other in the post and on the perimeter. They’ll need to share the wealth in the scoring department.

Jones is clearly on the rise while Bonner has been consistent enough over her career that people know what to expect from her. That leaves Alyssa Thomas as the X-factor for the team. In spite of her injuries, she reached her professional peak in 2019 by putting up insanely good numbers in the Finals: 18.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. She has followed that up with a phenomenal season overseas.

The defending champion Washington Mystics have re-signed 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne and the 2018 champion Seattle Storm have superstar Breanna Stewart back and healthy. Both will be tough to beat in the postseason but the Sun were one win away from a championship last year. With the acquisition of Bonner, Connecticut has improved through free agency and is looking to contend.