Connecticut heads into the WNBA semifinals Tuesday as not only the top seed but the team with the league MVP in Jonquel Jones, along with coach of the year Curt Miller and most improved player Brionna Jones.
Forward Jonquel Jones won the MVP honor with 48 of 49 first-place votes and 487 total points from a national media panel. Phoenix center Brittney Griner finished in second place with 224 points and got the other first-place vote. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart was third (156), Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles was fourth (137) and Washington center Tina Charles fifth (127). Stewart (2018), Fowles (2017) and Charles (2012) are all past MVP winners. The honor marked a steady progression for Jones, who won the WNBA's most improved award in 2017 and was sixth player of the year in 2018.
The 6-foot-6 Jones, 27, is in her fifth season in the WNBA. She was drafted No. 6 out of George Washington in 2016 by Los Angeles and traded to the Sun. She didn't play in the WNBA in 2020 when the season was in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and the Sun made it to the conference semifinals.
With her back in 2021, Connecticut went a league-best 26-6. She averaged 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 blocked shots and 1.3 steals.
"What does it take to be an MVP-type player, not just a great player?" Miller said. "It's her ability to continue to keep adding to her game and play both sides of the ball. She became more of a rim protector, and has established herself for a long time now as one of the premier rebounding players in the world.
"The offense has been written about a lot. She has incredible touch and the ability to play with her back to the basket. But what makes her special is her playing away from the basket and her ability to shoot the 3."
Miller said Jones also has made herself more of a facilitator when needed, "not just a catch-and-shoot player."
A native of the Bahamas, Jones will receive $15,450 and a trophy by Tiffany & Co. She is the second player to win the MVP while playing for the Sun. Charles, who is now with Washington, was the first.
Meanwhile, Brionna Jones, Miller said, is the perfect example of a player who waited her turn. Jones averaged a double-double as a senior at Maryland, and was drafted No. 8 in 2017. For her first three WNBA seasons, she averaged less than 10 minutes and four points per game. But when Jonquel Jones didn't play in the bubble, Brionna Jones capitalized on her chance to get on the court more.
She received 38 of 49 votes from the media panel, with Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum second and Dallas guard Marina Mabrey third. Selected by Connecticut in the first round of the 2017 WNBA draft (eighth overall pick), Jones averaged career highs of 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 30.6 minutes.
"What not everyone is capable of doing in this league is being prepared and ready for their opportunity," Miller said. "She's really, really continuing to work on her game and her fitness."
Miller got the nod as top coach for the second time, previously winning in 2017. He got 41 votes of 49 votes from the media panel. Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve was second, and Las Vegas' Bill Laimbeer and Seattle's Noelle Quinn tied for third.
"He puts people in great positions to score and be comfortable," the Sun's DeWanna Bonner said of Miller.