Connecticut Sun: 2007 Preview

CONNECTICUT SUN
2006 Results: The Sun finished 26-8, (.765, 1st in the East).
Roster | Stats | 2007 Schedule
Head coach: Mike Thibault enters his fifth season with the team.
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2007 Probable Starters:
C:
Margo Dydek
PF:
Asjha Jones
SF:
Nykesha Sales
SG:
Katie Douglas
PG:
Lindsay Whalen
2007 Draft Results:
Rd. 1:
Kamesha Hairston
Rd. 1:
Sandrine Gruda
Rd. 2:
Cori Chambers
Rd. 3:
Kiera Hardy
2006 Leaders:
Points
Katie Douglas, 16.4 ppg
Rebs.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, 9.6 rpg
Assts.
Lindsay Whalen, 4.6 apg
Blocks
Margo Dydek, 2.5 bpg
Steals
Katie Douglas, 1.9 spg

The Sun had the best regular season record for the second year in a row in 2006, yet they were a no show in the WNBA Finals after they were defeated by Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Their record merely reflected their talented roster. And this year's team will still return an impressive four players from last year's Eastern Conference All-Star Team.

COMING BACK


Sales
Chief among the returnees for coach Mike Thibault is All-Star Game MVP Katie Douglas, who is one of the top shooting guards in the league. She led the Sun in scoring (16.4) and steals (1.9) and set a franchise record with 73 3-pointers made. A premiere player on both ends of the court, Douglas was named to the All-WNBA First Team and the All-Defensive First Team.

Lindsey Whalen is really your prototypical point guard: a solid passer, finisher and playmaker. She scored 9.0 points a game and averaged 4.6 assists and 3.7 boards per contest - all the while hitting 90% of her free throws -- and will continue to be a catalyst for the Sun on offense.

All-Star forward Nykesha Sales will also be back in Sun gear. The well-rounded wing out of UConn can score on the drive, shoot from beyond the arc and is a solid defender. Last season, she compiled averages of 13.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Returning at center is 7-2 Polish veteran Margo Dydek. She may be best known for her phenomenal defense, having led the league in blocks with 2.5 a game, but she can also score, posting 9.4 points and 6.1 boards a night.


Dydek
Though she started only two games in 2006, Asjha Jones is coming off the best of her five seasons in the WNBA and will likely step in at power forward. She averaged 11.1 points a game as a backup and should continue to flourish with the impressive core of players in Connecticut.

Jamie Carey is a tough backup point guard who is an aggressive defender and Laura Summerton should continue to provide minutes off the bench, particularly if the 33-year-old Dydek misses any time.

NOT COMING BACK

Veteran forward/center Taj McWilliams-Franklin was traded to Los Angeles Sparks during the offseason, and she will definitely be missed. A 2006 All-Star, McWilliams Franklin was second best in the league and tops on her team in rebounds averaging 9.6 per game.

The Sun have also lost backup point guard Erin Phillips for the season due to an ACL injury she suffered while playing at home in Australia.

KEY ADDITIONS


Hairston
For having such an established roster, Connecticut had a productive time at the 2007 draft. Kamesha Hairston, the 12th pick overall, is a 6-0 forward who played for Dawn Staley at Temple. She's a slick player who works hard on the defensive end. The Sun also grabbed Cori Chambers out of Georgia, a 5-9 shooter who will help make up for the loss of Erin Phillips. Late in the first round, the team also took promising youngster Sandrine Gruda, a French national who is unlikely to play in the States this season, but who could be a solid player in the coming years.

In the McWilliams-Franklin trade, the Sun picked up 6-5 Brazilian center Erika De Souza, who hasn't seen much playing time in the WNBA, but could make a significant contribution in the paint.

Via free agency, the Sun also added seven-year veteran Kristen Rasmussen, who comes to Connecticut by way of Phoenix where she averaged 4.3 points a game last season. She will see plenty of minutes off the bench.

OUTLOOK

Aside from Taj, all of the Sun's All-Stars will be back and the team has brought in several talented newcomers. As long as Coach Thibault can find a way to compensate for McWilliams-Franklin's inside post presence -- with some combination of Jones, De Souza and Rasmussen -- this team is good enough to reach the WNBA Finals. They have all the elements of a championship squad.