The WNBA has seen one former MVP retire, and another traded within 24 hours of one another. While 2014 MVP Maya Moore had been away from the game for a couple of seasons already due to personal reasons, 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones was still playing at an All-Star level for a Connecticut Sun team that has been among the best in the league.
It's unusual to see an MVP traded in their prime, and when it happens it's always a blockbuster. Let's explore the ramifications of this move, particularly for your fantasy squads.
Jones is by-far the biggest impact player in this trade. She was named WNBA MVP in 2021 after averaging career-best marks of 19.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.6 3PG and 1.3 SPG with an additional 1.3 BPG that ranked as the second-best average of her career. Her production regressed a bit in 2022 (14.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 3PG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG), but a lot of that is likely due to situation and context.
Frontcourt injuries and excellent play led to Jones playing a career-high 31.7 MPG in 2021, but the Sun fielded an extremely deep and talented set of forwards and centers last season that squeezed Jones down to 26.4 MPG. Her shooting percentages were almost identical across the two seasons, indicating that she has the capacity to produce at a similar level in different circumstances.
Jones should get the opportunity to show that with the Liberty this season. The Liberty traded both starting forwards as part of this deal, so Jones should get all the minutes and responsibility she could want playing with or in front of Stefanie Dolson. Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu looks like a future MVP in the making, and she's one of the best playmakers in the WNBA.
Jones and Ionescu now form one of the best big/small combos in the league, and if they develop synergy, it should provide a statistical boost to both players. Jones and Ionsescu both have top-5 fantasy upside this season and are both likely first round picks in fantasy leagues. New teammate Kayla Thornton was a starting forward for the Wings last season and will battle with Betnijah Laney and 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere for playing time next to Jones and Dolson in the frontcourt.
From a fantasy perspective, the biggest winners for the Sun in this deal are the three elite frontcourt players that remain on roster. Alyssa Thomas (fifth), DeWanna Bonner (28th) and Brionna Jones (29th) joined Jones (tenth) in the top-30 in fantasy points last season despite there only being three spots on the court for the four of them at a time.
New addition Rebecca Allen is a veteran role player, while 24-year-old guard Tyasha Harris is either a role player or developmental prospect. Thomas played point forward last season (tied for fourth in WNBA with 6.1 APG) and is a clear first round prospect in fantasy leagues next season. Both Bonner and Brionna Jones are early-mid round prospects with top-20 upside.
The Wings also made a big splash in this deal acquiring Natasha Howard, who becomes the centerpiece of an already talented frontcourt. Howard is a strong two-way forward that averaged 15.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.0 BPG last season. She scored the eighth-most fantasy points... just ahead of new teammate Arike Ogunbowale, who had a higher per-game average but missed the end of last season due to injury. Howard and Ogunbowale make another strong forward/guard combo and both are worth consideration in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts.
Overall, this was a major trade that shakes up the WNBA landscape while also sending ripples across the fantasy-sphere as well. Jones, the starting Sun frontcourt and Howard are all arguably better fantasy prospects now than they were before the trade... and they were already among the best in the league. Chaos is a ladder, even in the offseason and this deal provides new opportunities for almost everyone involved.