May 2, 2024 

2024 WNBA season preview: Connecticut Sun 

The Sun didn’t make any headline-grabbing moves but should remain one of the league’s top teams

The Connecticut Sun will be a tough out for any team in the WNBA — that’s something the veteran core of Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones will make sure of.

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Last season, the Sun finished the year 27-13, good for the league’s third-best record. They fell 3-1 to the New York Liberty in the WNBA semifinals, all while Jones watched from the sidelines after rupturing her Achilles just 13 games into the season. Heading into the offseason, there was uncertainty about whether Bonner and Jones would return, given that both were free agents, but the Sun opted to run it back.

The decision to keep their core intact highlights the front office’s belief that with head coach Stephanie White and MVP candidate Thomas steering the ship, this is a team that can challenge — and, at their strongest, defeat — the best of the best. 

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Bonner plays a critical part in instilling that confidence; the 36-year-old led the team with 17.4 points per game last season, while Alyssa Thomas nearly averaged a triple-double with 15.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. Entering her 15th season, Bonner is fresh off of playing some of her best basketball and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Whether Bonner is able to replicate last year’s offensive success remains to be seen, but if she is able to, that will spell success for the Sun.

Jones was also a dominant force for Connecticut early on, averaging 15.9 points and 8.2 rebounds before her season prematurely ended. Her availability for the beginning of the 2024 season remains uncertain, but White indicated in a press release that she expects to have Jones back for the full year, despite the fact that an Achilles rupture normally takes at least a year to recover from — and oftentimes longer to fully return to pre-injury, elite level of play. 

When Bonner and Jones were unrestricted free agents heading into the winter, it was uncertain in which direction the franchise would head. But the Sun opted to re-sign both players, paving the path for another year of contention. 

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Sun acquire veteran guards

Connecticut acquired three veteran guards via trades who should each make meaningful contributions this season: Moriah Jefferson, Tiffany Mitchell and Rachel Banham

Connecticut Sun guard Moriah Jefferson faces off with a practice player during training camp.
Connecticut Sun guard Moriah Jefferson (left) defends during training camp at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on April 28, 2024. (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

Tiffany Mitchell, a veteran guard who averaged 7.3 points per game on 40.4% shooting for the Lynx last season, should help provide the Sun with even more defensive versatility. The Sun had the second-best defensive rating in the league at 98.8, and Mitchell should plug in perfectly. 

​​ “It’s been fun to watch her career unfold,” White, who coached Mitchell in her rookie season, 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.”

Point guard Moriah Jefferson — a four-time champion at the University of Connecticut — should be another impactful rotation player. In 2021, Jefferson enjoyed her first fully healthy season since her rookie year and has only been building off of that success. The following season, she averaged 10.8 points per game on 47.4% 3-point shooting for the Minnesota Lynx. Last year she was healthy for the Phoenix Mercury. She averaged 10.5 points per game on 43.3% shooting, but Phoenix had a challenging year, finishing with the WNBA’s worst record.

“I’ve won on every level except the WNBA,” Jefferson said. “So obviously, I want to get a championship. That’s never an easy thing to do. We’re playing [in] the hardest league in the world. But for me, that’s my end goal, so coming here, I want to do whatever I can to make this team better and to get as close as possible to that goal.”

Jefferson brings a reliable 3-point shot to a team that has often lacked spacing. She said she’s excited to play a brand of free-flowing, read-and-react basketball. “It’s easier. It’s not really cookie-cutter, robot type of basketball; you have a lot of different flows and different reads. Playing with [Thomas] and [Bonner], I think that’d be really easy to do.”

The Sun also added four rookies through the draft: French guard Leila Lacan, Kansas forward Taiyanna Jackson, Arizona guard Helena Pueyo and Columbia guard Abbey Hsu. Jackson, a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, could be an impactful big off the bench, particularly with Jones’ status uncertain, while Pueyo is a ready-now guard who has a solid chance of cracking the rotation. Lacan and Hsu aren’t expected to join the team this year.

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A second year under White’s belt could mean big things

One of the Sun’s greatest assets is White, who was named WNBA Coach of the Year in 2023 and is back for a second season in Uncasville. On draft night, White told reporters that last year served as a testing ground for the implementation of the fundamental schemes and actions that the team ran. This year the Sun will be able to build off that initial groundwork. 

Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White answers a question from the press during training camp.
Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White speaks with the media during training camp at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on April 28, 2024. (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

“We were at our basic level of execution on both ends of the floor — everything was new, everything was an adjustment,” White said of last season. “So, for us to be able to build on that — whether it’s the actions that we use on the offensive end of the floor, the reads that we have on the offensive end of the floor … defensively, being able to take things away instead of guarding things.” 

Some WNBA teams completely reworked their rosters, like the Seattle Storm adding Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike in free agency. Others made a splash through the draft, such as the Indiana Fever getting Caitlin Clark and the Los Angeles Sparks drafting Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson

Nothing the Connecticut Sun did earned national attention, but the moves around the margins and the ability to build upon a strong season last year are things White is excited about. 

“As a staff, we’re sitting here and we’re talking about all of these things that we can do with our personnel that are outside the box, that are a little bit innovative,” White said. “[We’re] continuing to just build off of the first layer that we were able to lay last year.”

Written by Noa Dalzell

Noa Dalzell covers the Boston Celtics for SB Nation's CelticsBlog, and the Connecticut Sun for The Next Hoops. Her work has also appeared in FanSided and Swish Appeals, 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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