The Connecticut Sun’s 2019 campaign may have ended in disappointment, but it was a big step for the franchise nonetheless.
While the Sun earned their third straight second-place finish in the league, they won their first playoff game since 2012. Their trip to the WNBA Finals was their first since 2005, which also ended in a loss to the Sacramento Monarchs.
But the Sun’s season started with questions, as the franchise traded their star forward Chiney Ogwumike to the Los Angeles Sparks. However, Ogwumike’s departure opened things up for Jonquel Jones. The Sun center returned to a full-time starting role after being a starter in 2017 and Sixth Woman of the Year in 2018. Jones was named an All-Star, led the league in rebounding, tied for the lead in blocks and set career-highs in shots taken as she became the focus of the Sun’s offense. To cap it off, she was named to the 2019 All-Defensive First Team.
The roster surrounding Jones helped to propel the Sun to new heights. Jasmine Thomas made her third straight All-Defensive First Team, solidifying her position as one of the top defensive guards in the league. Alyssa Thomas was an All-Star and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team, both for the second time in her career. Thomas also set a career-high in total rebounds.
The Sun dubbed Alyssa Thomas their “point forward” throughout the year, and for good reason:
POINT— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) July 30, 2019
And here Thomas is again, dishing the rock on a fast break opportunity:
POINT.— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 17, 2019
Courtney Williams came into her own on the offensive end, recording a career-high in points. Williams scored over 20 points eight times, including the regular season and playoffs. She also shot a career-high 45.7 percent from beyond the arc.
WHAT DID WE JUST SAY pic.twitter.com/5bk5MB30nd— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) July 30, 2019
Shekinna Stricklen made a career-high number of three-point shots, although her overall percentage fell. The Sun’s post-oriented offense did help to create open shots for Stricklen:
UUUUH OOOOH pic.twitter.com/ZDLXzl6zhW— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 28, 2019
The Sun were also quick to transition from a defensive stop to to getting the ball moving on offense:
More ball movement.— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 28, 2019
This is beautiful. pic.twitter.com/RNyMRQNPZx
The Sun got off a to a quick 9-1 start, but a five-game losing streak threatened to derail their promising season. The Sun finished 23-11 on the year, but were a sub-.500 on the road.
Going into the 2020 season, the Sun are likely to be thinking about the losses that kept them from finishing with the league’s best record, with nine of their 11 losses coming on the road. The inconsistency between their home and road performances should be a focus going forward.
Connecticut’s depth is also another area of concern. For instance, Alyssa Thomas played five 40-minute games in the playoffs, and missed just three minutes of the entire WNBA Finals. The development of their only rookie, Natisha Hiedeman, should be a priority in shoring up the backcourt. The Sun own the 10th and 11th picks of the 2020 WNBA Draft, as they received the additional pick from the Los Angeles Sparks as a part of the Ogwumike trade. They could potentially package the picks or drafted players in order to bolster their roster.
The Sun tied a franchise record with 15 wins at home, and likely wish they could have been at home for Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. Although the team is young, they now know what it feels like to win in the playoffs. Look for the Sun to be one of the best teams in the WNBA for quite some time.