April 14, 2021
2021 WNBA Draft Preview: Connecticut Sun
Curt Miller has some ideas for Thursday, but no first-round picks
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The Connecticut Sun will be without a first round pick in the WNBA Draft for the second year in a row, but with their back-to-back picks at the end of the second round, head coach and GM Curt Miller said he hopes to find an offensive spark to come off the bench and to create the most competitive training camp possible.
Barring any injuries or surprised in camp, Miller told media in a pre-draft call that he expects nine players to return from last year’s roster, and that the team will likely carry 11 players, leaving two roster spots open for whoever the Sun draft with picks 20, 21 and 30 to compete with the five players who the team signed to training camp contracts. Of those five new players on training camp contracts, only Kamiah Smalls has experience playing in a WNBA game.
“We have a championship locker room leadership-wise. We have tremendous leadership, championship pedigree from people that have won championships. We have a bunch of players now in their 30s, and so what we hope with our draft picks on Thursday night is to really add … value and bring addition to what we believe is a championship locker room environment,” Miller said.
The Sun traded their first round picks in this year and last year’s drafts for star forward DeWanna Bonner, who led last year’s team in average scoring and minutes. The team re-signed Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones this offseason, while also signing Natisha Heideman and Beatrice Mompremier to qualifying offers.
Playoff hero Alyssa Thomas is expected to miss the season as she rehabs an Achilles injury, but All-Star Jonquel Jones will return after opting out last season — so the Sun still have a solid core together. Miller said he thinks his team is versatile, even without Thomas, so they don’t need to look for one position in particular in the draft.
“We have been very close to winning a championship the last two years — Game 5 of the Finals in 2019 … came up a little short to return for a second straight year to the finals (in 2020) — so we know we’re close, but we’re looking to really add some offensive spark off the bench for us with these picks,” Miller said.
The IX’s latest mock draft has the Sun taking DiJonai Carrington from Baylor and Unique Thompson from Auburn with picks 20 and 21. Other mock drafts have Carrington going as high as the first round, but if the former Lady Bear falls down the board she could fill the offensive spark that Miller’s looking for.
Carrington averaged 14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in her final collegiate season, and she shot at least 40 percent from the floor each of the three seasons she played at Stanford and her graduate year at Baylor.
Unique Thompson is another interesting prospect who can not only provide an offensive attack in the paint, but can also contribute on the boards to help ease the loss of Alyssa Thomas. The 6’3 forward averaged a double-double in each of her final three seasons in college and led the SEC in rebounding this year.
Thompson is also a force on the offensive glass, which could help the Sun build on their strengths after the team led the league in that category last season. This year, Thompson led the nation with 5.4 offensive boards and ranked sixth overall with 12.8 total rebounds per game. Her scoring improved all four years at Auburn, and while she had the least efficient season of her career as a senior — shooting 48.3 percent — she still managed to put up 17.6 points a game.
The Sun could also consider sharp-shooting Arkansas guard Destiny Slocum. Her final collegiate game — a 2-point, 1-of-8 shooting performance in the Razorbacks first-round upset loss — might have left a sour taste in some scouts’ mouths, but that game was an anomaly for an otherwise terrific collegiate career. Slocum averaged 15 points on 48.3 percent shooting last season (a career high) and averaged 2.0 three-pointers a game over her college career.
Aleah Goodman, Slocum’s former teammate from Oregon State, is one of the best perimeter shooters in this year’s draft class and could potentially be an option for the Sun in the third round. She put up the best three-point shooting efficiency of the class during the 2020-2021 NCAA season with a 48.9 percent clip from the perimeter.
With only two expected roster spots, the Sun may decide to take advantage of what Miller said is a very deep international draft class. International draft prospects tend to be younger than their U.S. counterparts because they only have to turn 20 years old during the calendar year they are drafted. Many of them are already playing professionally overseas, and could stay with their teams abroad, potentially freeing up a roster spot.
“These may be players that may not play this season, may not play for a couple years, but they’re only 20. So there is an opportunity to draft international players and stash them for a year or two, and see about bringing them in the future,” Miller said. “In our case, we’re absolutely open minded at looking at international picks with any of our three draft picks.”
Miller said he would not be surprised to see four to five international players drafted ahead of the Sun at pick 20, but would be shocked if three were not selected in the first 19 picks. Most mock drafts are at a consensus that the top three international prospects are Awak Kuier from Finland, Iliana Rupert from France, and Shyla Heal from Australia.
Raquel Carrera, a 6’3 forward from Spain, Maxuella Lisowa-Mbaka, a 5’10 forward from Belgium, and Marine Fauthoux, a 5’9 guard from France, all have national team experience and could be available in the second or third round should the Sun decide to stash an international prospect for the season. Laura Meldere, a 6’3 center from Latvia, has played professionally in Italy for a few years.
Other team-by-team WNBA Draft previews: