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Three Up, Three Down: Brionna Jones putting up big numbers in Jonquel Jones’ absence

Jonquel Jones’ temporary leave of absence could have spelled doom for the Connecticut Sun, but they’ve steadied the ship thanks in large part to Brionna Jones. Her tenacious paint scoring and rebounding embodies what has made Connecticut a successful basketball team in 2021.

Seattle Storm v Connecticut Sun
Brionna Jones has filled a massive void in the post for the Connecticut Sun in recent games with strong rebounding and highly efficient scoring.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun currently sit at 10-5 and in third place in the WNBA standings. Recently, they’ve been winning without their superstar, Jonquel Jones, who has been playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket competition. Fortunately for Connecticut, the team has another strong rebounder and low-post threat to fill the void.

Brionna Jones, who stepped up for the Sun last season in Jonquel Jones’ absence, has been even better in 2021. Though the two might be considered an awkward frontcourt pairing, the Sun’s commitment to a slow-paced offense and emphasis on offensive rebounding has gotten the most out of the combination, and with J. Jones temporarily absent, B. Jones has feasted. In her last five games, she’s averaged 18 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting a tremendous 61 percent from the field.

While Jonquel Jones is expected back in Connecticut soon, her frontcourt partner’s recent performance has to make Sun faithful confident for the rest of the season. Brionna Jones is just one of several post players we’ll be singing praises of in this week’s installment of “Three Up, Three Down.”

Three Up

Seattle Storm v Indiana Fever
Jessica Breland has staved off younger players in the Fever’s frontcourt rotation. How long will that keep up?
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Jessica Breland (Indiana Fever)

Breland has been a solid source of rebounds and defensive stats, averaging 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocked shots and 0.6 steals on the season. She’s also been a favorite of Fever head coach Marianne Stanley, who has started Breland in 11 of 16 games. Considering the mess that is Indiana’s rotation, that’s about as solid of an endorsement as a Fever player can get.

Outlook: There are red flags surrounding Breland’s fantasy outlook — her age and the Fever’s ghastly team record, namely — so don’t be surprised if the 21.6 minutes per game she’s played thus far starts decreasing. The Fever recently rearranged things in the frontcourt, waiving Lauren Cox and signing Chelsey Perry, so we’ll see if this affects Breland’s court time at all before Indiana officially throws in the towel.

Brionna Jones (Connecticut Sun)

Jones has been absolutely unstoppable recently, scoring at least 20 points in each of her last three games and shooting 64.4 percent from the field. She also attempted 16 field goals in a game for the second and third time this season while recording at least two steals in a game for the sixth and seventh time.

Outlook: J. Jones is obviously the top dog in Connecticut, so her return will hamper B. Jones’ production somewhat. Even so, B. Jones has been rock-solid even while sharing the floor with J. Jones, and Sun head coach Curt Miller hasn’t been fond of playing any of his backup post players for long stretches, so look for staggered Connecticut lineups to keep Brionna Jones a steady fantasy asset moving forward.

Satou Sabally (Dallas Wings)

Sabally has recorded three-consecutive games in double-figure scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game in that span while making six 3-pointers. In her latest game against the Mystics, Sabally also recorded eight rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots in 30 minutes of play.

Outlook: Sabally hasn’t played heavy minutes in a game yet — she’s broken 30 minutes just once — but she seems to be one of the few Wings players exempt from head coach Vickie Johnson’s seemingly random rotations. She’s a huge part of the Wings’ future and, unlike some of their other young players, has clearly been ready to play in the WNBA since day one, so sit back and enjoy as she continues to stuff the box score.

Three Down

Phoenix Mercury v Los Angeles Sparks
Shey Peddy has an important role as the Mercury’s backup point guard, but it isn’t one that lends itself to many fantasy points.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Shey Peddy (Phoenix Mercury)

Peddy’s playing time fell off a cliff in the Mercury’s latest game against the Sparks, seeing just five minutes of action and posting three rebounds in those minutes. It’s not much of a surprise, as Diana Taurasi has returned from her sternum injury, and figures to take most of Peddy’s minutes at guard while Kia Nurse slides back over to small forward.

Outlook: Peddy was always a low-ceiling fantasy option, and with Taurasi back in the fold, the Mercury don’t have much reason to play her significant minutes. Peddy is very much a “game manager” type of point guard; even when she does play, most of Phoenix’s offense will come from some combination of Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Crystal Dangerfield (Minnesota Lynx)

Dangerfield’s up-and-down season continues. She played just eight total minutes in the Lynx’s close win over Las Vegas, recording just one assist, and has averaged just six points in her last five games. Her assist/turnover ratio of 3.7/1.7 remains impressive, but Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve has shown much more confidence in Layshia Clarendon since initially acquiring them with a hardship exception.

Outlook: Reeve clearly doesn’t trust the 5-foot-5 Dangerfield to defend (especially against bigger teams like the Aces), and unlike the 2020 season in which Dangerfield played 30 minutes per game en route to a Rookie of the Year award, there’s a veteran guard on the roster in Clarendon who will eat away at her playing time. Dangerfield is still an effective player, but her role has been much smaller than it was last season, so she’s probably not going to be on many fantasy players’ radars.

Aari McDonald (Atlanta Dream)

McDonald’s playing time has fluctuated as of late, playing as many as 19 minutes and as few as six in her past five games. While she has the green light to shoot when she’s in the game, she’s also converting on just 33.8 percent on her attempts from the field, and with Chennedy Carter back from injury, McDonald’s minutes may be even less consistent moving forward.

Outlook: Point guard is a difficult position to learn for rookies, and McDonald has plenty of competition at the spot in Carter and Odyssey Sims. McDonald isn’t exactly an ideal offensive fit next to most of the Dream’s other guards, either, so hold off playing her until she has a clear avenue to more minutes.