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Breaking Down The Reported Blockbuster Trade That Sends Jonquel Jones To The Liberty

With a national holiday coming up tomorrow, the WNBA slid in some Sunday evening drama, as former league MVP Jonquel Jones is on the move.

While the trade has not yet been made official by the league, numerous reporters have corroborated and expanded on initial reporting, including that Jones specifically asked out of Connecticut. Calling this a seismic shift in the WNBA would be a drastic understatement. Jones earned an All-WNBA 2nd Team nod for her play this past season with the Sun, a year earmarked by a trip to the WNBA Finals.

While Jones’ stats took a dip this past season, it’s not an indictment of play, rather due to the nature of fellow All-WNBA performer Alyssa Thomas returning to the fold. As shown during the Finals, when putting forth her peak performance, there are few players who rival her talent and ability. As reported by Howard Megdal of The Next Hoops, the current construction of the trade is as follows (with room for change as it’s not finalized).

Let’s dive into this from each team’s perspective.

Connecticut Sun

By and large, it is impossible to recoup value when a franchise stalwart asks out; an organization is not going to get equal value back for a former MVP who is still and MVP-caliber talent.

Connecticut’s rebuilt staff and organization has preached the need to be more versatile, to put a greater emphasis on shooting and spacing, focused on revamping their offense. As has been made clear in every press conference from the Sun’s president, GM, and new head coach, the expectations are to be back in the playoffs, and deep into he playoffs.

Rebecca Allen is a career 36.9% 3-point shooter who can hit capably off movement on high volume, something the Sun frankly haven’t had the past few seasons on the wing. However, Allen was hurt during the FIBA World Cup in September, suffering a rib injury and partial lung collapse. It was announced in October that Allen would be out for two months by her overseas team, Valencia Basket Club, and she has yet to suite up for Valencia this season.

Ty Harris adds another dynamic backcourt threat, capable of playing on and off the ball with size at the guard position as well. Particularly with Jasmine Thomas out most of last season, Connecticut’s guard depth was inconsistent. As Thomas works her way back into the fold, Harris could provide some invaluable minutes in the backcourt alongside Natisha Hiedeman, who broke out as a starter herself last season.
The sixth overall pick in the coming draft is interesting, but for how this current draft is shaping up and considering the value return for Jones, this is underwhelming. It’ll be worth waiting to see what if any future draft compensation finds its way to Connecticut via this trade.
Recent 6th overall picks

  • Lexie Hull (2022)
  • Michaela Onyenwere (2021)
  • Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan (2020)
  • Napheesa Collier (2019)
  • Azura Stevens (2018)
  • Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (2017)
  • Jonquel Jones (2016)

Nothing is set in stone, and each draft is different; a star is not guaranteed at any pick, let alone the sixth. Connecticut has typically drafted well, but this is a different front office set-up, as former head coach Curt Miller was also general manager.

If the Sun keep this pick, it marks a noteworthy first opportunity to make a selection in Darius Taylor’s tenure. Brionna Jones, reigning All-Star and Sixth Player of the Year is a pending free agent, but the team will reportedly use its core designation on Jones.

Connecticut coring Jones, essentially a franchise tag that allows for exclusive negotiating rights, insures that the organization still keeps one of their All-Stars in the frontcourt. Without moving one of their max level players, it would’ve been virtually impossible for the Sun to potentially re-sign Brionna Jones.

New York Liberty

For the New York Liberty, this is an absolute home run. Jonquel Jones is without question the best player that franchise guard Sabrina Ionescu has played with in her young career. Ionescu thrives as a ball-screen operator with her pull-up threat and rhythmic downhill pace and touch. Adding Jones’ overwhelming ability as a roll threat, pop threat, and her gravity overall gives the Liberty an incredibly dynamic two-player duo to build around.

I’m very excited to see how Jones looks in Sandy Brondello’s system, which often utilizes high post playmaking, a great deal of dribble hand-offs, and prioritizes an outside in approach to open up driving lanes and maximize spacing. Jones has been candid about marketability and visibility; there is perhaps no more marketable and visible market than New York City when the basketball reaches its highest heights.

Without question, this vaults the Liberty into the upper echelon of the W. With two of the top players in the league, the foundation is strong, and there’s room for the surrounding cast to continue to build throughout the off-season. After making a leap into the stratosphere of competitiveness this past season and earning a trip to the first round of the playoffs, the Liberty undoubtedly have larger aspirations in 2023.

While Jones is the headliner, don’t sleep on the addition of Kayla Thornton! Thornton just had the best season of her pro career for Dallas, with her second half of the season offensive outbreak proving vital to the Wings’ surge into the playoffs. She’s a stout on-ball defender who can toggle across multiple positions and brings a solid offensive skillset as a strong driver, aggressive rebounder, and occasional three-point threat. For a team that often lacked a true ball-stopper on the defensive side of the ball last season, Thornton is a significant get.

Dallas Wings

Dallas’ involvement in this trade is incredibly interesting. Given recent reporting from Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV that Allisha Gray is expected to be traded from the Wings, it was surprising to find out that she was not involved in the trade. The Wings appear to be incredibly active in reshaping their future, hiring a new coach in the offseason and now getting aggressive in the trade market.

Natasha Howard was an All-Star for the Liberty this past season. A dynamic roll threat, face-up scorer, and rangy defender in the frontcourt, the former DPOY and multiple time All-Defense member brings a lot to like for Dallas. While we don’t yet know what newly hired head coach Latricia Trammell’s system will look like, she has long been known as a lover of defense. Howard adds versatility and a strong interior presence for a team that toggled through multiple defensive schemes, never quite settling in due to their wide range of personnel.

The biggest question: How does this work with the current frontcourt?

Satou Sabally was dealing with nagging injury much of this past season, but she’s one of the more exciting young players in the game and should be viewed as a vital part of Dallas’ longterm plans. She primarily plays the four and spent some time at the five this past year as well. While she has the skill and athleticism to play the three for stretches, the inconsistency of her three-point shot has led to her often not being guarded as a threat from deep this past season. It’s worth noting that Sabally has shot 41.2% from deep during Turkish League and Euroleague play since the 2020-2021 season (77 total games), but 25% from deep on similar volume during her W career per InStat Scouting. If her shot bounces back in the W, this is a different story.

Teaira McCowan was arguably Dallas’ MVP down the stretch of last season, stepping into the starting lineup over the final 13 games and averaging 16.2 points and 10 rebounds per games as the Wings went 8-5. Sabally and star guard Arike Ogunbowale both missed chunks of the end of the season due to injury. McCowan is a restricted free agent this offseason and solely a center. The trio could certainly play together, but it’s the kind of theoretical fit that makes me want to see that lineup immediately, because I have so man questions in every facet.

What does the collective passing look like? Satou is a phenomenal passer while Howard and McCowan are both prone to turnovers. That’s putting a lot of decision-making on Dallas’ guards. Again, not inherently a bad thing, but I’m very curious to see it play out.

Crystal Dangerfield is a heady ball-handler and playmaker who can get into the lane. She brings potential as a rotation guard for the Wings who could also see some turnover in their backcourt if they decide to keep her in Dallas. Marina Mabrey is a restricted free agent. The aforementioned Gray is unlikely to remain in Texas. Ty Harris is in Connecticut. There’s a great deal to parse through here for each team, but Dallas has the feel of a team that’s just starting their engine.

This is an absolutely massive deal, and a huge swing to tip off what will likely be a busy close to winter in basketball. As the remainder of the trade, the offseason, and free agency unfurl, there figure to be more big moves on the horizon that will shake up the power structure o fthe league.