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2018 Season Preview: Five Reasons To Watch The Connecticut Sun Work

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2017 Record: 21-13, No. 4 seed in Playoffs, Eliminated by Mercury in Second Round

Key Offseason Moves

  • Re-signed Alyssa Thomas and Shekinna Stricklen to multi-year contracts
  • Selected Lexie Brown with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft
  • Acquired Cayla George from Phoenix
  • Signed 2017 draft pick Leticia Romero to rookie contract
  • Signed free agents Betnijah Laney and Jessica January
  • Signed head coach/general manager Curt Miller to contract extension through 2021

2017 Season Highlights

1. Meeting High Expectations

The Sun entered 2017 with relatively low expectations; they were coming off a 14-win season and lost Chiney Ogwumike for the season to a torn left Achilles injury. Six games into the season, the Sun found themselves with a 1-5 record despite being competitive in each of their losses. Then the team caught fire, winning five straight and 10 of its next 12 games. The Sun continued to climb the standings all season as they went 20-8 following that 1-5 start to finish with 21 wins and a playoff berth for the first time since 2012.

After a first-round bye, the Sun were upended by the Mercury in the second round, ending their magical season. While they did not have the postseason that they had hoped, their overall success in 2017 established them as a team to be reckoned with for years to come. Of course, with greater success comes greater expectations. The Sun won’t sneak up on anyone this season. They have the talent to make a deep playoff run and take the next step toward title contention. How will they respond to these higher expectations?

2. The Return of Chiney

In addition to returning its young core from last season, the Sun also add a significant piece back into the puzzle with the return of two-time All-Star Ogwumike. She missed two of the past three seasons with season-long injuries and has put in a ton of work to get herself back onto the court. Along with her rehab, Ogwumike established herself as a media personality and is now a full-time ESPN analyst/host. Her ability to balance her rehab and broadcast assignments was impressive and leaves little doubt that she is fully committed to being both a baller and a broadcaster.

3. Jonquel’s Next Chapter

What will Jonquel Jones do as an encore to her breakout season in 2017? Last season, she was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player, showed out at her first All-Star Game, broke the WNBA’s single-season rebound record (403) and tied for the league-lead in double-doubles as she averaged 15.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Jones not only has the ability to dominate the glass, she can score both in the post and on the perimeter either off the bounce or spotting up behind the 3-point line (25-for-56 last season). That skill set makes her a dangerous player for opposing teams to contend with, especially with the Sun adding another All-Star to their frontline in Ogwumike to play alongside her.

4. No Doubting The Thomases

While Jones was the breakout star of 2017, the Sun’s pair of Thomases – Jasmine and Alyssa – played huge roles in Connecticut’s success. Both players are coming off career years that saw them earn their first respective All-Star selections. In her fourth WNBA season, Alyssa Thomas averaged career-highs across the board: 14.8 points (18th WNBA), 6.8 rebounds (12th), 4.5 assists (5th), 1.6 steals (5th) and shot 50.9% FG%. The same goes for Jasmine Thomas, who averaged 14.2 points (21st WNBA), 4.3 assists (7th) and 1.6 steals (6th), while making 54 3-pointers (9th) on 40.3 3P% (7th). Jasmine Thomas put up these numbers in her seventh WNBA season, making her the most experienced player on the Sun roster. In addition to leading the team as its starting point guard, Jasmine Thomas’ leadership is critical for this young squad that is still growing together.

5. Rookies Ready To Add A Spark

The Sun have a pair of draft picks – Lexie Brown (No. 9, 2018) and Leticia Romero (No. 17, 2017) that will look to make an impact in their first seasons in the WNBA. In Brown, the Sun have a combo guard that can create plays for herself and her teammate, can shoot from distance (262 3-pointers at Duke) and is a lockdown perimeter defender (ACC Defensive Player of the Year).

Romero is ready to make her WNBA debut after missing last season due to her commitments with the Spanish National Team; she won a silver medal with Spain in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Romero is another versatile guard that can play both on and off the ball and can shoot from distance. Connecticut ranked third last season in 3-point accuracy (36.5%) and fourth in 3-pointers made (223). Both rookies can help boost those numbers. But they will have to prove themselves over a deep field of Sun guards in order to get on the court.