January 29, 2022
What a Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams reunion means for the Connecticut Sun
Two bedrocks of the Sun's 2019 WNBA Finals run are nearing deals to return to the team
The last time Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones were Connecticut Sun teammates, they came within a game of a WNBA championship. Now they are reuniting in Connecticut, as the Sun will find out whether Williams’ offense is the missing piece of the puzzle for the team’s elusive first championship.
A source confirmed to The Next that Williams and Jones are both finalizing deals to return to the Sun. Girls Talk Sports TV’s Khristina Williams first reported the Williams news, and Rachel Galligan of Just Women’s Sports reported the news about Jones.
Re-signing Jones was an obvious priority and topped Connecticut’s free agency wish list. The reported multi-year deal to stay with the only WNBA team she’s ever played for shows Jones’ commitment to Curt Miller’s vision of a high-powered frontcourt trio of Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas.
Jones was the centerpiece of a Sun team that finished the 2021 regular season in first place, and the Sun cored Jones early in free agency, giving Connecticut exclusive negotiating rights.
The near-unanimous WNBA MVP had her best year yet in 2021, averaging 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and a career-high 2.8 assists per game. She was one of two players to average a double-double last season (the other being Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles), and she led the league with 6.6 win shares. That was 0.3 ahead of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who ranked second, despite Jones missing five games in the regular season.
The decision to re-sign Williams shows that, despite last season’s sooner-than-expected exit in the semifinals, the Sun still believe they’re in a “win-now” window that could be closing sooner rather than later. Bringing Williams back to Connecticut after two turbulent seasons in Atlanta gives the Sun one of the league’s most dangerous scorers and shot creators.
Williams is coming off her best season in the league, averaging 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game—career highs in scoring and assists with only a slight dip from her career season on the glass in 2020, when she pulled in 7.2 boards a game. Before playing the last two seasons with the Dream, Williams played for Miller and the Sun from 2016 to 2019 after she was acquired in a trade from Phoenix early in her rookie season.
Williams has one of the best mid-range shots in the game, but she’s never been known for her 3-point shooting. That could become a continued area of focus and improvement with the Sun’s inside-out philosophy. She’s already started to show more confidence behind the arc: Last season, she made 39 total threes on 102 attempts—a noticeable jump from her previous career highs of 20 makes on 53 attempts in 2018 with the Sun.
Last year, before Williams’ first game at Mohegan Sun Arena in an opposing uniform on July 9 and shortly after she was named to her first All-Star team, MIller called Williams one of the best scorers in the league and said he knew she had potential to take her game to the next level.
“The one thing that you appreciate is players who love to play, so one of the things that I enjoyed about Courtney was that it didn’t matter if it was practice or games, Courtney loves basketball, and she’s going to compete the same way,” Miller said. “… With WNBA schedules the way they are, it’s hard to always get the intensity for the duration because of such short turn-around times. I’ve always appreciated [how] Courtney comes to compete each and every day.”
Williams was the team’s second-leading scorer in the 2019 regular season behind Jones, but her performance took another leap in the postseason as she helped propel the Sun to the Finals. She matched Jones’ team-high 17.9 points in eight playoff games, and her best game was a 26-point, 13-rebound double-double that helped the Sun clinch their first trip to the WNBA Finals since 2004.
More recently, Williams joined forces with Jonquel Jones, Bonner and Brionna Jones in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game. Jonquel Jones and Williams led the team in plus-minus at +8 and combined for 33 points in a 93-85 win over the U.S. national team, which went on to win Olympic gold just a few weeks later.
Defensively, Williams doesn’t quite fill the hole that seven-time All-Defensive honoree Briann January leaves, but that’s not the biggest downside considering that Williams will be surrounded by three starters who have been named to a WNBA All-Defensive team, including Jasmine Thomas at the helm. Assistant coach Chris Koclanes described Thomas as “the head of the monster” last season, when Connecticut had the best defense in the league by a mile.
The Sun also put up historic rebounding numbers in 2021, pulling in a league-record 57.2% of all rebounding opportunities. It was the core of their success, and the Sun will only add to that with Williams. She ranked 13th in the WNBA in rebounding last season and has been the league’s best rebounding guard for the last three seasons. A strong and speedy rebounding guard can only help the Sun, especially when it comes to pushing the pace in transition.
Williams will serve a two-game league suspension at the start of next season as a result of a video of an altercation that involved Williams and eventually led to the Dream cutting ties with the guard. Her early absence shouldn’t affect the team too negatively, as it wasn’t until the third game of 2021 that all five starters debuted on the floor together, and they didn’t do so again until the seventh game of the season. Guards Natisha Hiedeman and DiJonai Carrington will likely get early minutes to start the season, which could be a good thing for their growth and experience.
With a healthy Alyssa Thomas back in the mix, the team is set to fully realize the potential of the Jonquel Jones-Thomas-Bonner supertrio that Miller first imagined in 2020, along with an evolved Brionna Jones—the 2021 Most Improved Player who has transformed into one of the best low-post players in the league—and an All-Star guard familiar with the team and staff. This team could finally be destined for its first WNBA championship.
With Williams and Jones set to join the roster and Hiedeman, Beatrice Mompremier and Stephanie Jones signing their qualifying offers, Connecticut is set with 11 players on the roster and draft picks that include the No. 12 overall selection (which would be the Sun’s first first-round pick since 2019 if they decide to keep it).
Hiedeman and Mompremier will likely make the final roster, and Stephanie Jones could end up competing with a few other players in training camp for the final roster spot. Because of cap space, the team cannot afford to carry a 12th player.