July 5, 2024 

Connecticut midseason check-in: At 16-4, the Sun have plenty to celebrate

Midway through the 2024 WNBA season, the Sun have the league's second-best record, largely thanks to consistently-stellar defense, the elite play of Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, and the breakout of DiJonai Carrington.

Twenty games into the regular season, the Connecticut Sun have the second-best record in the league (16-4) and the best road record (8-2). It hasn’t been a flawless season; Connecticut has yet to beat the Liberty, who hold the league’s best record at 17-3, or the Aces, the back-to-back champions. Both teams stand between them and a highly-coveted championship.

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But in a league with so much talent, 16-4 is pretty darn good, and a 2-0 record against the Lynx, who just won the Commissioner’s Cup, is nothing to scoff at. The team’s unwavering defensive identity is largely to thank for the early-season success, but several individuals have also stood out so far for the Sun.

Three players — Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, and Brionna Jones — were named All-Stars this week. DiJonai Carrington, who’s had a breakout season on both ends of the floor, was left off the list, but she had a strong case as well. Most recently, the Sun defeated the Mercury and Lynx on the road, bouncing back well from their worst stretch of the season, losing three of four games. Sun head coach Stephanie White noted that the offense is a work in progress, but that two road wins against good teams is a step in the right direction.

There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, but here are six things we know about the Sun at the halfway point of the season. 

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Defense remains the name of the game for Connecticut 

The Sun’s 93.4 defensive rating is good for second-best in the league — the Lynx are the only team with a better rating at 92.2. Their three-point defense is also second-best in both opponent 3-pointers per game (6.3) and 3-point percentage (30.7%).

The Sun have also been holding opponents to 73.1 points per game, the fewest of any team in the league. DiJonai Carrington, who typically matches up with the opposing team’s top perimeter scorer, has been critical to the Sun’s success. So has Thomas, who has long anchored Connecticut’s defense. 

Alyssa Thomas is still a triple-double machine 

The WNBA’s all-time triple-double leader is quietly having another stellar season for Connecticut. The Engine is averaging 12.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists on the year, rivaling her MVP-level season from last year. In 2023, Thomas averaged 15.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 7.9 assists, and the primary reason for her slight scoring dip this season is that she’s taking fewer shots — she’s attempting 8.9 field goals this season, while she attempted 12.8 last year. 

Her field-goal percentage is actually up — Thomas is shooting 50.3% from the field this year after shooting 47.4% last year — but with the ascension of players like Ty Harris and DiJonai Carrington, she hasn’t needed to hunt for her own shot as often. 

Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) reacts after a made basket during the WNBA game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on May 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Still, on Thursday night against the Lynx, Thomas recorded her second triple-double of the season after coming close several times this year, securing it with a rebound at the buzzer. The 14-assist, 13-point, 10-rebound stat-line marked her 10th career regular-season triple-double, the most in WNBA history. 

“It feels good,” Thomas said postgame. “It’s been a while. I couldn’t let this one pass me today, but I’m just overall happy about the team.” 

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Veronica Burton was a stellar mid-season pickup

In her last four games, Veronica Burton is averaging 8.3 points on 62.5% shooting in 22.5 minutes. On Thursday, she racked up a game-high 4 steals, and defensively, she’s been a perfect fit in Connecticut. 

“She’s been a great addition for us,” Thomas said. “Defense is her identity. So, super happy for her to have a moment like this. She’s ready for this moment, and she fits right in.”

Offensively, Burton has hit open jumpers and run the offense effectively. With Moriah Jefferson out for the foreseeable future recovering from ankle surgery, Burton has excelled in the backup point guard role. With Ty Harris out with illness on Thursday, Burton excelled in her first start as a Sun. 

Stephanie White described Burton as a natural fit on the roster. 

“She’s just a smart player,” White said. “She doesn’t try to do anything out of herself, outside of her skillset. She’s just really solid. She’s in good position, she plays with multiple levels of effort.” 

DiJonai Carrington was one of the biggest All-Star snubs 

Regularly starting for the first time in her career, DiJonai Carrington has consistently been one of Connecticut’s best players on both ends of the floor.

Carrington is averaging 13.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. She struggled with her shot early on — she made just two three-pointers in her first 10 games of the season — but she hit 14 of her 33 three-point attempts in the last 10 games, good for 42.4%. 

“She’s typically [guarding] the best perimeter player,” White said. “Defensively, she’s got to be locked in to being on point every single game. She’s continued to get more comfortable and more consistent on the offensive end of the floor.”

Connecticut Sun guard-forward DiJonai Carrington (21) during the WNBA game between the Atlanta Dream and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Carrington has scored in the double-figures in 14 of the 20 games she’s played in this season, a remarkable feat for a player who averaged 8.3 points per game last year.

“Her consistency has just been outstanding,” White said. “It’s exactly what we’ve needed.” 

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Brionna Jones is beginning to look like pre-injury Breezy

A year ago, Brionna Jones ruptured her Achilles and missed the rest of the season. One year later, she was named a WNBA All-Star for the third time in her career. 

For the year, Jones is averaging 12.9 points and 5 rebounds on 54.7% shooting. Those numbers mark a slight dip from last season, when she averaged 15.9 points on 57.1% shooting, but they can largely be attributed to early-season minutes restrictions. Jones has only played 25.7 minutes per game this year, down from 31.7 last season.

“I am just so impressed with Breezy,” White said. “We didn’t really know where she would be at the beginning of training camp. We’ve had minutes restrictions throughout most of the early season, and she came back further along than anyone anticipated. It took her a little bit to get her wind, a little bit to maybe get her flow and her rhythm and her timing. But she’s just been as dominant as ever.”

Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones (42) and Atlanta Dream center Tina Charles (31) battle for rebounding position during the WNBA game between the Atlanta Dream and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

DeWanna Bonner is still leading the way at 36

The league’s fifth all-time leading scorer turns 37 next month but shows no signs of slowing down. DeWanna Bonner had one of her best games of the season on Thursday against the Lynx, finishing with 24 points on 10-16 shooting and 9 rebounds.

For the year, she’s averaging 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. That’s despite shooting just 27.4% from three, one of the worst marks of her career, and 80% from the line, which is still good but her lowest rate since 2016. On a roster where all five starters average double-figures, Bonner has been the team’s leading scorer in 11 of the 20 games played. 

Next month, she gets to face her fiance, Alyssa Thomas, at All-Star weekend; Thomas will be on Team USA, while Bonner will be on Team WNBA. 

“We’re trying to prepare them for winning gold, and I’m cheering hard for them,” Bonner said. “I think it starts with us in that first game, and that’s huge for them to see where they are.”

Despite the competitive nature, Bonner looks forward to a sixth All-Star appearance. 

“It’s my sixth one, it’s a goal of mine,” Bonner said. “I’m gonna enjoy it, I’m not gonna put too much pressure on it. It’s a game that I can finally play and just relax and enjoy it.” 

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Written by Noa Dalzell

Noa Dalzell covers the Boston Celtics for SB Nation's CelticsBlog and the Connecticut Sun for The Next. Her work has also appeared in FanSided and Swish Appeal, as well as CLNS Media. When she's not writing about basketball, she's playing basketball or lobbying for a more sustainable food system.

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