2016 Record: 14-20
Key Offseason Moves:
Acquired Lynetta Kizer and the No. 8 pick in the 2017 Draft as part of a three-team trade involving Phoenix and Indiana. Connecticut sent forward Camille Little and the draft rights to Jillian Alleyne to Phoenix
Acquired Reshanda Gray from Atlanta in exchange for Aneika Henry-Morello
Re-signed Alex Bentley and Jasmine Thomas to multi-year contracts
Chiney Ogwumike suffered a torn Achilles tendon, underwent surgery in December
The Return of the Starting Backcourt
Veteran guards Alex Bentley and Jasmine Thomas both signed new multi-year contracts in the offseason. Last year, the seasoned duo combined for 25 points, eight assists and six boards per game. Thomas leads the team in experience, having played six years in the WNBA. Last year, just her second with the Sun, Thomas hit career-high averages in points (11.7), assists (5.1), rebounds (4.1), field goal percentage (40.8%) and free throw percentage (86.1%). Bentley also outdid herself last season, scoring more points (437) than she did in any of her previous four seasons in the league. Connecticut won 11 of its final 18 games last season under the leadership of Bentley and Thomas.
With the No. 8 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Connecticut selected Brionna Jones from the University of Maryland. The 6-3 center led the nation in field goal percentage as a junior (.665) and senior (.690). Jones averaged a double-double (19.9 pts, 10.9 reb) her senior season as part of her first-team All-American campaign, and finished her collegiate career with 1,928 points and 1,209 rebounds. Look for Jones to fill a void left by the absence of forward Chiney Ogwumike, who will miss the season as she continues to recover from Achilles surgery.
Rookies No More
Several players on the Sun’s roster made their professional debuts last season, including Jonquel Jones, Morgan Tuck, Rachel Banham and Courtney Williams. Tuck and Banham were drafted by Connecticut with the No. 3 and No. 4 picks in 2016, respectively, while Jones and Williams arrived via trade. Last season, Jones saw action in all 34 games with the Sun, making the start in six contests. She played her best basketball in September, averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from behind the arc. Tuck appeared in 26 games before being sidelined with an injury, finishing with averages of 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds. Williams played in 19 games after her trade from Phoenix, while Banham also had injury problems and saw just 15 games of action. With one year of experience under their belt, plus the continued leadership of Bentley and Thomas, these four should find their place in the rotation.
High Hopes for Hightower’s Return
Allison Hightower played her last game for the Sun in 2014 before knee injuries sidelined her for two seasons. In 2013, she was named a WNBA All-Star while putting up a career-high 12.8 points per game. One of five Sun players that have been in the league for five or more years, Hightower has been with the Sun since she was drafted out of LSU in 2010, making her the longest-tenured member of the team. She’s the only player on the roster that’s made a playoff appearance with the Sun. So, while the team hasn’t made the postseason since reaching the 2012 Semifinals, Hightower will be one to watch as she makes her comeback and aims for another playoff push.
Kizer joined the Sun as part of a three-way trade involving Indiana and Phoenix. The 6-4 forward played in 33 games with the Fever last season, making the start in 12 of them. She averaged 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, highlighted by a career-high 21 points against New York in July. Kizer also proved her scoring prowess during the 2014-2015 season overseas, where she was second in the Turkish League with 19.0 points per game. With experience garnered from multiple teams in the WNBA and overseas, Kizer brings a wealth of knowledge to the Sun.