Can the Sun finally win their first WNBA title this season?

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Connecticut Sun had just improved to 9-0, but it was difficult to tell.

As DeWanna Bonner and teammate Brionna Jones sat on the dais at Mohegan Sun Arena following the Sun’s 76-59 win Tuesday, they didn’t sound like they played on the last unbeaten team in the WNBA this season.

“Listen, we’re 9-0, we’re winning, but we’re not playing great basketball right now. Be honest,” Bonner said during the news conference. “We have a chemistry that’s been around for a long time. Other teams are going to start finding their chemistry, they’re going to get better. We’re going to get better; we have to get better.”

Bonner then pointed out Connecticut’s struggles in certain statistical areas — blemishes she said are covered up by a veteran roster.

“We know we have a long way to go. We’re not celebrating these wins at all.”

The tone was similar two games prior following a two-point win over the Dallas Wings.

“We’re 7-0,” coach Stephanie White said with a laugh, “and sometimes in the locker room after games it feels like we’re 0-7.”

Connecticut, one of seven teams in WNBA history to win at least its first nine games, can improve to 10-0 with a win Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ABC) over the New York Liberty, the team that knocked the Sun out of the 2023 semifinals.

But White and her players aren’t concerned about being undefeated and the best team in the league in May or June. For a franchise that has advanced to at least the semifinals each of the past five seasons, but is still looking for its first championship, there’s a sense of urgency for something more — before it’s too late.

“We know that the window is closing on this group and the opportunity for us to compete for a championship,” said White, who’s in her second year in Uncasville, on Sunday. “Everybody understands that this is our chance and is approaching it like that.”

TALK OF SUPERTEAMS dominated the 2023 WNBA season. The Las Vegas Aces and Liberty finished 1-2 in the standings before dueling in a highly anticipated Finals matchup. But this season, the Sun have garnered early attention with an undefeated record through the first week of June. The Liberty, Aces and Minnesota Lynx have each lost twice.

Dating to Curt Miller’s tenure in Uncasville, Connecticut has been a contender for several years, appearing in the 2019 and 2022 WNBA Finals. But the Sun’s 2024 start has been historic. With a win over the Mercury on May 28, Connecticut secured its best start in franchise history at 6-0, and the Sun have kept rolling.

Through Thursday’s games, advanced stats like the Sun, too: Their net rating (plus-14.3) ranks first in the league, bolstered by their No. 1 defensive rating (88.1 points allowed per 100 possessions), a longtime trademark of Sun basketball.

Connecticut’s offensive rating ranks fourth (102.4 points per 100 possessions), powered by five players averaging double figures: its big three of Bonner (19.1 PPG), Jones (13.3 PPG) and Alyssa Thomas (13.0 PPG), plus first-year starters DiJonai Carrington (11.9 PPG) and Tyasha Harris (10.7 PPG).

Thomas and Bonner, who are engaged, have picked up where they left off last season as one of the best duos in the league. The MVP runner-up in 2023, Thomas led the league in total assists and rebounds, and she started 2024 with a triple-double in the opener against Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever. After winning Eastern Conference Player of the Month, Thomas ranks No. 1 in the league in assists (8.8 APG) and No. 6 in rebounds (9.3 RPG).

“Every time she steps on the floor, there’s an internal desire to prove she’s the best player on the floor,” said White, who has compared Thomas’ competitive fire to that of all-time great Tamika Catchings [they were WNBA teammates for four seasons]. “She’s not motivated by the stats; she’s not motivated by awards. She just wants to win.”

Bonner, who will turn 37 in August and is the league’s third-oldest player, continues to find the fountain of youth. After choosing not to play overseas during the WNBA offseason, she returned to Connecticut mentally and physically refreshed, which has helped her play some of the best basketball of her career. Her 47.7% shooting would be most efficient of her career, and that’s despite a slow start from the 3-point line (28.3%). Earlier this season, Bonner moved into the No. 5 spot on the league’s all-time scoring list and currently boasts 7,053 points.

Some of the Sun’s success last season was surprising since they lost Jones midseason to a ruptured Achilles. Though she’s still making her way back, Jones was ready for the start of the 2024 campaign, and the two-time All-Star has demonstrated how critical she is to the team’s success.

White said it’s a “luxury” to have Jones back on the floor and that she forgot how many assets Jones brings to the team, from communication, physicality, basketball IQ and defense to a role as a glue piece. Jones’ 63.4% clip from the field would be a career best and is the second highest in the league.

Connecticut’s biggest offseason changes came in its backcourt and bench. With Tiffany Hayes retired (though she recently signed with Las Vegas) and Rebecca Allen and Natisha Hiedeman traded away, the Sun didn’t go far to find their new starting guards.

Harris and Carrington were two younger players the coaching staff and front office anticipated would shine with larger roles, and they’ve done exactly that. Carrington has established herself as a premier defensive stopper, while Harris has enjoyed clutch moments hitting big shots in fourth quarters. And if anything, the Sun want the point guard to be even more aggressive with her shot throughout the game.

Rachel Banham, Tiffany Mitchell, Moriah Jefferson and Astou Ndour-Fall round out the Sun’s reserves, and they’re all veterans who bring experience on the floor and maturity to the locker room. Even their youngest players, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and recently acquired Veronica Burton, were drafted in 2022 and have experience.

BONNER WASN’T WRONG. For as good as the Sun have been, her point from the Mystics game was that Connecticut has room to grow.

The Sun have experienced several slow starts this season. Five of their wins were by single digits, and they know the result could have been different if a few things didn’t bounce their way. Their schedule has been fairly forgiving with six home games, and though they beat a tough Lynx team in overtime, they haven’t faced the Aces or Liberty yet.

And for as good as they have been defensively, they’ve often needed to lean on that end of the floor to win games when the offense isn’t firing.

Connecticut’s effective field goal percentage is 47.7, fifth in the league, and the Sun are shooting a league-worst 29.0% from the 3-point arc. Their assist percentage is a fairly lackluster 66.2, ninth in the WNBA. No team shoots more free throws than the Sun (22.8 per game), but they’re converting a league-worst 73.7% from the line.

White suspects the law of averages will balance out — last year Connecticut shot 36% from 3 and had an effective field goal percentage of 49.8. The coach speculates some of those struggles are from having fewer floor spacers compared to last year and that with several new pieces, they’re still figuring out spacing, timing and passing.

“We’re still working out a lot of kinks, lineups, minute restrictions,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of room for us to continue to grow, which is also scary. I don’t think any of us are playing their best basketball right now.”

White doesn’t worry about complacency with this group. If anything, she doesn’t want the players’ quest for a championship to consume them. Especially considering their big three will all hit free agency after this season.

“I think the expectation is just really high,” White said. “The expectation for success and knowing we’re not playing our best basketball, that we’re leaving a lot on the table so to speak. Our team is very business-like. We’ve got a group, at least a core group, of perfectionists.”

History is in Connecticut’s favor: The six previous teams in WNBA history to start the season with at least a nine-game winning streak — the Sparks (2001, 2003, 2016) and the Lynx (2012, 2016, 2017) — all reached the Finals. The 2001 and 2016 Sparks and 2017 Lynx won the championship.

And so the time is now for the Sun, who hope to prove that in an era of so-called superteams and super rookies and superstars, the WNBA title runs through Uncasville.

Games to watch this weekend


Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces
Friday, 10 p.m. ET (ION)

After an 0-2 start, the Storm got back on track by winning their past five games as chemistry begins to coalesce. But after facing a slew of teams with losing records, the level of competition will intensify this weekend, starting with the two-time defending champion Aces. Yes, Las Vegas dropped two early games, but the Aces have the best player on the planet right now in A’ja Wilson, who is coming off the league’s first 35-point, 10-rebound and 5-steal game in Las Vegas’ victory over the Dallas on Wednesday. The two-time MVP has recorded at least 20 points and 9 rebounds in each contest this season. Chelsea Gray has yet to return but the Aces signed Tiffany Hayes out of retirement, and she played well in her debut Wednesday (11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 21 minutes).


New York Liberty at Connecticut Sun
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET (ABC)

This game is shaping up to be one of the best of this young season. A rematch from last year’s semifinals, which New York won, the Sun and Liberty enter Saturday with something to prove. Connecticut can improve to 10-0 and make its case for early championship favorites. New York could use a signature win, particularly after suffering consecutive regular-season losses at the end of May for the first time in their superteam era. One area to note: The Liberty’s Courtney Vandersloot missed Thursday’s game due to personal reasons, while Nyara Sabally has been sidelined the past week with a back issue. Their availability for Saturday is unclear.


Seattle Storm at Minnesota Lynx
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET

The Storm conclude their weekend with another tough road trip to Minnesota. This matchup features two of the top defenses in the league and two teams that through robust free agencies have asserted themselves as contenders. A big four of Jewell Loyd, Nneka Ogwumike (who missed the Storm’s last game with an eye issue), Skylar Diggins-Smith and Ezi Magbegor lead Seattle, with each averaging over 14 points. Minnesota boasts four double-figure scorers (including newcomers Alanna Smith and Courtney Williams) but is mostly led by franchise linchpins Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride.

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