February 1, 2024
How Connecticut Sun remade their backcourt with Tiffany Mitchell, Rachel Banham
Acquisitions provide versatility at both ends
The Connecticut Sun sent Natisha Hiedeman to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for Tiffany Mitchell and the 19th pick in the 2024 draft in a move that should bolster the team’s defensive versatility. They also signed Rachel Banham to a two-year deal worth $190,000, coming in at $95,000 per season, protected, according to our Howard Megdal.
Hiedeman, who had been in Connecticut since her rookie season in 2019, averaged 8.5 points on 39.2% shooting in 26.7 minutes last season. Her minutes have steadily increased each year, but she saw a diminished role in the playoffs when Tyasha Harris jumped her in the rotation.
Connecticut adds Mitchell, a veteran, versatile guard who averaged 7.3 points on 40.4% shooting for the Lynx last season. Prior to joining the Lynx, Mitchell spent eight seasons with the Indiana Fever and has averaged 9.2 points in her career. Sun coach Stephanie White coached Mitchell in her rookie season for the Fever.
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Mitchell’s addition gives the Sun — one of the best defensive teams in the league last season — even more defensive versatility. Mitchell is a bit longer than Hiedeman and is able to guard multiple positions more effectively. The Sun, who had the second-best defensive rating in the league at 98.8, should be able to plug her into schemes without missing a beat.
From a spacing standpoint, however, Mitchell won’t do the Sun any favors. She hit 28.9% of her three-pointers last season and has exceeded the 30% mark only once in her career. Given that neither Brionna Jones nor Alyssa Thomas shoot 3-pointers, the trio could be difficult to play together for extended minutes.
Hiedeman, on the other hand, is a career 39.2% shooter and undeniably a greater threat from beyond the arc. As more of a true point guard, she’ll likely benefit from being on a team like Minnesota, where she has the liberty to run the offense.
Enter Banham, who was drafted by the Sun back in 2016 and shot 40.2% from deep in 2023.
“It’s never easy to part ways with someone that has been a part of your organization for as long as Natisha,” Sun general manager Darius Taylor said of Hiedeman in a press release. “We would like to thank her for her dedication and contributions on the court and in the community. We wish her success with her new organization.”
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Mitchell will likely take some of the minutes Tiffany Hayes had last year in the rotation. Hayes, who announced her retirement from the WNBA in December, was one of the Sun’s top two-way players. Connecticut general manager Darius Taylor told The Next in January that finding a versatile guard to help replace Hayes was a priority. Taylor admitted it’d be difficult to find someone who could bring all of her production — Hayes averaged 12.1 points per game on 47.6% shooting — but Mitchell is a rotation player who can certainly provide some of the intangibles Hayes brought.
This offseason, Mitchell played seven games with Galatasaray, a Turkish professional basketball team, averaging 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists. She is also currently planning on competing in the 2024 Athletes Unlimited season, which begins Feb. 29 in Dallas.
Stephanie White expressed excitement about reuniting with her former player.
“It’s been fun to watch her career unfold,” White said in a press release. “I’m excited to be on the same sideline with her again. She’s a competitor and fits the grit and toughness that permeates our franchise.”
Alongside Mitchell, the Sun will acquire Minnesota’s 19th pick. The Sun already have the 10th, 22nd and 34th picks in the 2024 draft, so they’ll have the chance to grab several upper-tier players from this year’s graduating class for some added depth to compliment a team lead by MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas. As for DeWanna Bonner, the free agent has not committed to re-signing in Connecticut.
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