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2021 WNBA Draft Preview: Connecticut Sun need some Alyssa Thomas energy

Kaila Charles, the 23rd pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, will bring a lot of what Alyssa Thomas would have brought this year, but could the Connecticut Sun use another Kaila Charles selected at around the same place to add depth at the 2-3 spot?

Connecticut Sun v Las Vegas Aces - Game Five
Will Connecticut look to put a young shooting guard next to Jasmine Thomas (center)?
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun posted three 20-win seasons in a row before going 10-12 in 2020, but even then they made it to the WNBA Semifinals. They have had a lot of success lately, but will be tested this year without one of their star players in Alyssa Thomas, who is out with a torn Achilles.

Picks: 20, 21, 30

Needs: true 2 and/or someone with similar skills to Alyssa Thomas

The Sun have six players signed to training camp contracts and just seven under contract so all three of their picks could potentially compete in camp. When you look at their core, you see the versatility of DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones, who can both play 3 through 5. Then there’s Brionna Jones as a 4-5 and two point guards in Jasmine Thomas and Briann January. Their sixth and final lock (with Alyssa Thomas injured) in Kaila Charles actually could fit what they may be looking for in the draft: a 2-3.

Connecticut needs to bring in someone who can replace at least some of what they lose with A. Thomas out. A. Thomas is a physical 6-foot-2 point-forward who can rebound, defend and dominate in transition. They could also use a true two. The best case scenario would be a player who can shoot and play at that two spot, while also possessing the size and physicality of a three.

Charles is like A. Thomas in a lot of ways. She went to the University of Maryland and is a capable point-forward with great defense, toughness and driving ability. And her mid-range shot improved a lot during her first year as a pro in 2020. So the second-year version of her could be the answer to fill this need for the Sun. However, with two great point guards and another in Natisha Hiedeman potentially on the bench, plus Beatrice Mompremier potentially providing frontcourt depth, Connecticut could use another Kaila Charles, as could any team that doesn’t have a specific need and is just looking for someone versatile.

DiJonai Carrington of Baylor, who our Eric Nemchock has projected at No. 14 (six spots ahead of Connecticut’s first pick) would be the perfect fit. She is a 5-foot-11 shooting guard who can knock down shots from all over and who showed how disruptive she can be on defense in the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Watts of UNC took a dip in terms of 3-point shooting as a senior, but is the quintessential athletic wing who can do a lot of what Thomas does while playing shooting guard. She may be the best available player at No. 20 if the Sun are going to look for a 2-3 who can replace some of Thomas’ skills.

If they take a shooting guard/small forward at No. 20, the Sun may want to mix it up with their second and third picks (No. 21 and No. 30). However, other options at any of their three spots from the shooting guard department include Lindsey Pulliam of Northwestern, Aaliyah Wilson of Texas A&M and Aleah Goodman of Oregon State.

Pulliam is a deadly mid-range shooter who could provide scoring. She is the quintessential shooting guard, but won’t be able to cross over to the 3 at all. Wilson is a good all-around scorer, who wasn’t as prolific as Pulliam in college, but knows how to play her role within an offense and is extremely talented. Goodman is a pure 3-point shooter who had the second best percentage (49) from distance in NCAA Division I as a senior.

If the Sun want to lean more toward taking a true 3, Ivana Raca of Wake Forest would be a good option. She is 6-foot-2 and averaged nine rebounds per game as a senior.

One last, interesting option for the Sun is DiDi Richards of Baylor. Probably one of the the biggest names mentioned here because of her role on the 2019 national championship team, Richards would bring that Alyssa Thomas energy on defense and can also distribute extremely well like Thomas can. At 6-foot-2, she’s also a mismatch against almost any point guard or shooting guard and can definitely play the 3. She wouldn’t provide much offense, but there’s a lot of Alyssa Thomas in her, which may be attractive to Connecticut.

If the Sun are more interested in backcourt depth, Destiny Slocum of Arkansas and Kysre Gondrezick of West Virginia could be options. Both are great shooters and Slocum has off-ball experience from her time playing with do-it-all guard Mikayla Pivec at Oregon State. Gondrezick, on the other hand, can put up gaudy scoring numbers and be everything you need in a shooting guard, though she also plays the point.

If frontcourt depth is what Connecticut is looking for, Jenna Staiti of Georgia is no longer available because she removed her named from the draft, but N’dea Jones of Texas A&M, Ciera Johnson of Texas A&M, Laura Meldere of Latvia, Raquel Carrera Quintana of Spain and Janelle Bailey of UNC are all options.