Jonquel Jones Seizes Her Moment

Note: This article has been updated since its original publication on Sept. 1 to reflect end of season statistics and accomplishments.

It is often said that success can be found when preparation and opportunity meet. When opportunity knocked for Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, she broke the door down and established herself as the breakout star of the 2017 WNBA season.

Selected as the sixth pick in the 2016 Draft, Jones showed promise during her rookie campaign, but flew under the radar averaging 6.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 14.1 minutes per game. However, things changed during the offseason, as Jones headed to Korea where she gained more skill and experience.

In November, Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike tore her left Achilles’ tendon while playing in China, an injury that would sideline her from the 2017 WNBA season. It also meant that the Sun were going to rely on Jones much more than they did in her rookie season. More minutes, more opportunity, more responsibility. The circumstances were unfortunate, but it was a chance to step up. And that is exactly what Jones did.

After becoming the Korean league’s Most Valuable Player and leading her team to the league championship, Jones returned to the Sun ready take her game to new heights.

It started on opening night as Jones corralled a then career-best 20 rebounds to go with eight points and two blocks in Connecticut’s 81-74 loss to the Atlanta Dream. Two weeks later, Jones topped that mark as she set new career-highs with 21 rebounds and 23 points for the first 20-20 game of her career to help Connecticut to its first win of the season. She joined an exclusive club as only 13 players have ever recorded a 20-20 game in WNBA history, with Jones’ being the 17th on record. She also joined Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles as the only players with multiple 20-rebound games in the same season — and later tied Charles’ record with her third.

This wasn’t just a hot start that fizzled out once teams started to focus on slowing her down. Jones was a consistent force for the Sun all season long. She earned her first WNBA All-Star selection, became the frontrunner for Most Improved Player, led the league in rebounds in record-breaking fashion, shared the lead in double-doubles and helped lead the Sun back to the postseason after a four-year absence.

Take a look at Jones’ per game numbers from her rookie season to her sophomore season:

The leaps she made in both scoring and rebounding go well beyond just an increase in minutes. Sure her minutes doubled (14.1 to 28.5), but her scoring more than doubled and her rebounding more than tripled.

Let’s just take minutes variation out of the equation and compare her stats on a per 36 minute basis:

Her scoring is still up 12 percent and her rebounding up nearly 60 percent. This is a sign of a player not only seeing their production rise with more minutes, but maximizing their newfound opportunities to elevate their game to new heights.

No matter which metrics you use, you can see this dramatic leap in only her second year in the WNBA. And beyond the numbers, the eye test shows you a player that has become a force to be reckoned with by opposing players and coaches.

The 2017 regular season was dominated by the bigs, with centers accounting for three of the top five scorers in the league — Brittney Griner (first at 21.9 ppg), Tina Charles (third at 19.7) and Sylvia Fowles (fifth at 18.9). While Jones finished below that group (15.4 ppg) in terms of scoring, she led all of them – and the rest of the WNBA – in rebounding. And she did so in record fashion as she established herself as one of the premier frontcourt players in the game.

Jones not only broke the WNBA record for rebound average in a single season, topping the mark set by Tina Charles during her rookie season with the Sun in 2011, she also became the first player in league history to corral over 400 rebounds in a single season.

Top 5 Total Rebounds – Single Season
403: Jonquel Jones, Connecticut, 2017 (34 games)
398: Tina Charles, Connecticut, 2010 (34 games)
374: Tina Charles, Connecticut, 2011 (34 games)
369: Sylvia Fowles, Chicago, 2013 (32 games)
363: Cheryl Ford, Detroit, 2006 (32 games)

How rare is this type of rebounding in the WNBA? Jones finished the regular season with a rebound percentage of 23.9 percent this season, meaning she grabbed nearly a quarter of all rebounds in the game while she is on the floor. That mark not only led all players this season (Krystal Thomas finished second at 20.8%), it became the best mark in league history, topping Cheryl Ford’s 23.0 percent from 2006.

Jones also became just the seventh player to ever average at least 11 rebounds in season, a feat that has only happened nine times. She also joined an exclusive club of players that have averaged at least 15 points and 10 rebounds in a season. That had happened only 16 times in WNBA history by only six players prior to this season. Jones became the seventh player to do so as her and Fowles added just the 17h and 18th 15-10 seasons in league history.

15-10 Club – WNBA History
Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun: 2017
Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky/Minnesota Lynx: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017*
Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Lisa Leslie, L.A. Sparks: 1998, 2002, 2003
Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento: 1999, 2000, 2001
Chamique Holdsclaw, Washington Mystics: 2002, 2003
Natalie Williams, Utah Starzz: 2000
*First three as member of Chicago Sky, 2017 as member of Minnesota Lynx

While her combination of scoring and rebounding puts her in the company of some of the WNBA’s all-time greats, it still does not show off Jones’ full array of skills. She is the type of player that can grab a rebound and push the ball up the court on her own in transition to find opportunities for herself or her teammates (1.5 assists per game). Her offensive game is not limited to the paint. She can work on the perimeter and either knock down the three (25-56, 44.6% this season) or beat her defender off the dribble and create a shot from mid-range or take it all the way to the basket.

Her combination of skills was on full display last month against the Dallas Wings as Jones recorded just the fifth 5×4 game — finishing with at least four in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks — in WNBA history. In Connecticut’s 96-88 win, Jones finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and four steals in 36 minutes. It was the first 5×4 game since Candace Parker recorded her second back in July of 2014.

5×4 Games – WNBA History
The WNBA’s 5×4 game is comparable to the NBA’s 5×5 game due to the fact that the WNBA plays only a 40-minute game compared to 48 for the NBA.

Lisa Leslie, 06/25/2004, LAS 67 at IND 71: 8 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 6 STL, 4 BLK
Candace Parker, 05/29/2008, LAS 78 at IND 82 (2OT): 16 PTS, 16 REB, 5 AST, 5 STL, 6 BLK*
Nicky Anosike, 06/10/2009, MIN 87 vs LAS 76: 16 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 5 BLK
Candace Parker, 07/03/2014, LAS 70 at SEA 56: 17 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 4 BLK
Jonquel Jones, 08/12/2017, CON 96 vs DAL 88: 19 PTS, 16 REB, 4 AST, 4 STL, 5 BLK
*only 5×5 game in WNBA history, happened in 2OT game

Jones’ play type breakdown from Synergy also shows off her versatility as she ranked in the 91st percentile or higher on putbacks (92%), transition (91%) and spot up (93%) plays during the regular season. She led all players with 130 points scored on putbacks, which is to be expected with her dominance on the offensive glass. Jones and Fowles each finished the season with 123 offensive rebounds, but Jones scored 22 more points on putbacks than her Lynx counterpart.

However, the rest of the play types where she’s highly ranked — transition and spot ups — offer a glimpse of an all-around offensive threat. Three play types missing from that list are ones typically associated with dominant bigs – post ups (53%), cuts (50%) and pick and roll roller (75%) plays.

Those might be the scariest stats of all when it comes to looking at Jones in her second season. There is plenty of room for improvement in those three categories. And as her game continues to develop, she will become an even greater offensive threat. She’s already a 15-10 player, but has the potential to be a 20-10 player in this league for many years to come.