The Connecticut Sun swept the WNBA awards announcements on Tuesday ahead of their first game of the 2021 postseason. In a series of releases, the league announced Jonquel Jones as Most Valuable Player, Curt Miller as Coach of the Year and Brionna Jones as Most Improved Player.
The awards are voted on by a media panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was named Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday, leaving the Rookie of the Year, Sixth Woman of the Year and Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award as the major individual awards to be announced.
The Connecticut Sun (26-6) locked in the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and host Game 1 of the semifinals at Mohegan Sun arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2). They’ll play the No. 6 Chicago Sky.
Jonquel Jones earns first MVP
Sun center Jonquel Jones received 48 of 49 first-place votes to win the 2021 MVP. She had 487 total points from the panel, which was asked to list its top five MVP candidates on the ballot. Jones quickly became a favorite for the award once the season was underway.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner received the other first-place vote and finished in second place with 224 total points. Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, the 2018 MVP, was third with 156 points, and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, the 2017 MVP, was fourth with 137 points. Washington Mystics center Tina Charles, who carried a team that struggled with injuries but missed the playoffs, was fifth with 137 points.
From the Bahamas to Connecticut. JJ’s been on a journey like no one else.
TODAY SHE MAKES HISTORY. pic.twitter.com/bTX147RdGY
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 28, 2021
Jones, a 6-foot-6 center, has ascended the WNBA award ranks, leading the franchise to shill for votes with an "Earned, not given" campaign. She won 2017 Most Improved Player Award and the 2018 Sixth Player Award. She is the first player in the league's 25-year history to win MIP, Sixth Woman and MVP. (The league erroneously announced her as the first to win MIP, Defensive Player of the Year and MVP; she has not won a DPOY award). She's spent her entire career with the Sun after the Sparks traded her rights on the night of the 2016 WNBA draft after they took her sixth overall.
In 2021, she averaged 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.26 blocked shots and 1.26 steals over 27 games. She was one of only two players (Fowles) to average a double-double. She ranked first in rebounding, earning the Peak Performer award in that category for a third time in five seasons and ranked first in defensive rebounding (8.7 per game). She was fourth in scoring, 10th in blocks and second in efficiency rating (25.4).
Curt Miller named Coach of the Year
Curt Miller is the WNBA Coach of the Year for a second time, joining five other coaches as multiple-time winners. Connecticut is currently on a franchise-record 14-game winning streak and playing for its first title. The Sun's winning percentage (.813) is the best in franchise history.
Miller received 41 of 49 votes. Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had six votes while Bill Laimbeer of the Aces and Noelle Quinn of the Seattle Storm each received one vote. Van Chancellor, Mike Thibault and Reeve are three-time COY winners while Dan Hughes and Laimbeer are the other two-time winners.
Miller, 52, led the team to the top spot despite losing Alyssa Thomas ahead of the season to an Achilles injury. Thomas has been a key part of the core Sun squad that reached the WNBA Finals in 2019. He kept a roster spot open for her, despite then having to play with a short bench, and she returned days before the regular season ended.
Connecticut made history in the first half of the schedule by going 9-1 in Commissioner's Cup play and participating in the first-ever cup championship game. The Sun lost to the Storm.
The Sun are the No. 1 defense in the league (93.7 defensive rating), allowing 69.9 points per game. That’s nearly 10 full points better than the second-ranked defense of the Los Angeles Sparks. Four players were named to the WNBA All-Defense first- and second-teams voted on by media members.
The offense is second in the league in offensive rating (106.9), playing at a slower pace than opponents and so only averaging 79.7 points per game. It's built around the award-winning Jones' and DeWanna Bonner.
Miller has taken the Sun to the playoffs in five of his six seasons and is looking to get back to the Finals, with an eye on the franchise's first WNBA title.
Brionna Jones earns first Most Improved Player award
Brionna Jones is the 2021 WNBA Most Improved Player after taking more of a leading role with the Sun this year. It's Brionna Jones' first award and she joins three Sun players having formerly won it, including teammate Jonquel Jones (2017).
Brionna Jones had 38 of the 49 votes from the panel. Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who has seen an uptick in production from her last season of 2019 even while coming off the bench, earned eight votes. It was her first season back after an Achilles injury sidelined her in 2020.
The Dallas Wings' Marina Mabrey received two votes and the New York Liberty's Betnijah Laney, who won the award in 2020 while with the Atlanta Dream, received one vote.
Brionna Jones, the Sun's No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft, averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 30.6 minutes. She started all 32 games and was a critical piece for the Sun while they dealt with a short bench and star forward Jonquel Jones missing time at EuroBasket.
The final Covergirl edition is here. Bri Jones deserves to be named Most Improved Player. pic.twitter.com/0guBSJvxAD
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 21, 2021
Brionna Jones' previous career highs were all in 2020. She averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, one assist and 26.1 minutes in 21 games. She hit those numbers without Jonquel Jones, who opted out of the season.
The 6-foot-3 forward was second in offensive rebounding (3.2 per game) and eighth in steals (1.38) in her MIP year and had nearly as many total rebounds as she had in her first four seasons combined.