January 16, 2021
Connecticut Sun free agency preview
What pieces of the puzzle can the Sun afford to resign?
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Enjoy our team-by-team free agency previews!
A lot remains uncertain for the Connecticut Sun as the 2021 free agency begins to unfold, but a few pieces of the puzzle have begun to come together.
On Jan. 8, Natisha Hiedeman signed the qualifying offer extended by general manager and head coach Curt Miller, something that will provide some stability at the guard position moving forward.
On Jan. 11, the team announced Beatrice Mompremier had signed the qualifying offer extended to her by Miller. Mompremier struggled at times during the 2020 season, she provided a solid rebounding presence off the bench, including a 16-rebound performance on Sept. 3.
“Beatrice was a fantastic addition and showed impactful moments throughout her rookie season. She immediately helped us with rim protection and rebounding at both ends of the court. She has a bright future and we are excited to watch her growth in 2021,” said Miller in a press release.
The Sun announced that Miller signed a four-year contract extension through the 2024 WNBA season on Jan. 12.
Miller has taken the franchise to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, consistent success the team had not experienced since its early years after moving to Connecticut. This extension demonstrates the team’s confidence in Miller and the direction he has taken the team.
As the general manager, Miller has his work cut out for him with DeWanna Bonner, Kaila Charles, Briann January, and Jonquel Jones accounting for 44 percent of the team’s salary cap. These players, as well as Hiedeman and Mompremier, are the only ones under contract for the 2021 season.
Alyssa Thomas, who has been an important part of the Sun’s plan since she arrived and critical to the Sun’s last two playoff runs, should be the Sun’s top priority in this free agency period.
On Jan. 13, Thomas suffered what appeared to be a lower leg injury and would be returning to the United States for further evaluation.
Regardless of the severity of the injury, the Sun still needs to prioritize re-signing Thomas, who has played despite two torn labra for the last several years.
If Thomas is unable to play Connecticut will likely not be responsible for paying her salary, something that would free up the space to sign a player or two to begin to replace her skillset. The team would need several players to help fill in the gaps, primarily focusing on her ability to drive to the basket and fight through contact as well as her defensive skills. Thomas was first in the league in steals and third in rebounds last season.
The Sun could potentially use any injury Thomas suffered to negotiate her new contract at a lower price, which could create problems as negotiations continue.
While Bria Holmes struggled during the 2020 season, her ties to Connecticut and versatility make her a likely candidate to return, although it may require a pay cut.
Brionna Jones proved herself as a center last season and re-signing her would help compensate for any loss of Alyssa Thomas. The Sun have also made strong post play its identity over the last several years, something Jones could continue to help with.
The salary cap is the Sun’s biggest enemy this offseason. It is unlikely the Sun will be able to re-sign Jasmine Thomas, who has been with the team since 2015, in part due to the aforementioned four players that make up 44 percent of the team’s cap space. If the team does indeed lose Thomas it will be important to add another point guard to the roster, likely a young player who can learn from Briann January.
Essence Carson and Theresa Plaisance are two veterans who will likely seek out a new team in 2021. Money may play a factor in both of these decisions and Plaisance struggled to be healthy enough to take the court.
With so many questions left to answer in free agency, only time will tell if Miller will continue to invest in veterans or shift to signing younger players to create more salary-cap flexibility.