Jonquel Jones is a huge star who is an unrestricted free agent. The Connecticut Sun need to do everything in their power to keep the reigning MVP.
Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones make up the rest of the Sun’s big four and they are all on protected contracts. Connecticut doesn’t need to worry about going out and trying to create a super team. It already has one with those four. The Sun were of course the best team in the regular season last year and that was almost entirely without Thomas. With her, they are going to be even more dangerous.
The Sun finally got to see their big four all play together in the playoffs after a 2019 Finals appearance where the absence of DeWanna Bonner, still in Phoenix at the time, could have explained their inability to get over the hump against the Washington Mystics and a 2020 semifinals where the absence of Jonquel Jones as a COVID precaution could have explained them falling just short against the Las Vegas Aces.
In what may have been the most disappointing playoff experience of the three, the Sun were eliminated from the 2021 semifinals by the eventual champion Chicago Sky. That was after they bounced back from a Commissioner’s Cup championship game loss to become a dominant team that seemed title-bound.
By the numbers*
Free agents (type) (average salary)
- Briann January (unrestricted) ($121,500)
- Jonquel Jones (unrestricted) ($190,550)
- Stephanie Jones (reserved) ($58,710)
Total average salary of free agents: $370,760
Total team salary: $873,716
Cap space: $505,484
Jonquel Jones obviously deserves the supermax as she was the best player in the league. The Sun can core her, which would give her that supermax and ensure that she returns to Connecticut.
As for Briann January, if the team gives J. Jones a tiny raise of just $351 and doesn’t keep a first- or second-round pick, it could keep her at her same pay as last year. That’s also given that it doesn’t trade Natisha Hiedeman, Kaila Charles and/or DiJonai Carrington in favor of players it can give the player minimum. It seems unlikely that the Sun would replace those players when they aren’t that expensive to keep anyway.
January could take a pay cut, but it would have to be a pay cut of $37,193 if J. Jones receives the supermax and all those other players remain. And J. Jones is 28 years old and has never received a supermax contract before, so she is unlikely to sacrifice pay for January, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and brings veteran leadership but is now 34 years old and not a huge offensive factor. January still has a lot to offer and could make an impact on another team that pays her more.
Lets say J. Jones gets the supermax and Hiedeman, Charles and Carrington stay. That would leave between $78,472 and $84,307 for Connecticut to pay an 11th player depending on if they keep the No. 12 pick, a second-round pick or someone at the player minimum for their 10th player. If that 11th player isn’t January, it could be someone like Shavonte Zellous ($70,040 in 2021), who is currently in that pay range and likely isn’t going to attract many teams wanting to give her a significant raise. Younger players like Lexie Brown and Lindsey Allen ($70,040 in 2021) will demand pay raises, but if Connecticut can afford them, they’re both guards so they could fill in for January. Brown showed a lot of promise with Minnesota in 2019. The Sun could also bring a 3-point threat in Rachel Banham back to Connecticut. But Sophie Cunningham ($58,710 in 2021) might be the best get if they can afford her.
Jordin Canada ($70,040 in 2021), a great passing point guard who could definitely replace the defensive prowess of January, will certainly be out of Connecticut’s pay range.
The Sun are likely to have only 11 players, not 12. Without trading Hiedeman or Charles, they would have to give J. Jones no raise, let January or some kind of solid free agent go and not keep a first- or second-round pick in order to get to 12.
* All salary numbers come form Her Hoop Stats