Last night, it was announced 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones was traded to the New York Liberty in a three-team deal involving the Dallas Wings and Connecticut Sun.
Here’s the full breakdown of the trade:
- New York: Jonquel Jones (from Connecticut), Kayla Thonrton (from Dallas)
- Connecticut: Rebecca Allen (from New York), Tyasha Harris (from Dallas), No. 6 pick in 2023 draft (from New York)
- Dallas: Natasha Howard (from New York), Right to Crystal Dangerfield (from New York).
This deal, which was finalized today, sends a ripple effect throughout the rest of free agency. Jones, who turned herself into one of the best two-way bigs in the league during her time with Connecticut, spoke with multiple teams before requesting to be traded to the Liberty. It’s a situation we have seen play out time and time again in the WNBA: a franchise has a disgruntled superstar and isn’t able to recoup the same value in a trade.
Players and teams can’t (officially) start negotiating until Feb. 1 but front offices have already started to make splashy moves to prepare for what is to come in a couple weeks. Until then, here are our grades for this blockbuster involving Jones.
New York Liberty: A+
No one benefitted from this trade more than the New York Liberty, who now have two bonafide stars in Jones and Sabrina Ionescu. The franchise proved it is ready to make another leap in 2023 after finding some life in the second half of last season. They pushed the No. 2 seeded Chicago Sky to the brink in the first round of the playoffs and have now set themselves up to possibly be a true contender going into next year.
Ionescu and Jones are the big winners here. By adding an all-world talent like Jones, Ionescu won’t be burdened like last season of having to play hero any time the Liberty fell a part with her on the bench. New York averaged 103.4 points per possession with Ionescu on the floor last season compared to 86.8 with her off of it. Having someone like Jones who can shoulder some of the responsibilities as a go-to scorer will help Ionescu over the course of 40-plus games this year.
As for Jones, she will be paired with a reliable distributor in Ionescu, who will free up Jones in the post and as a roller. Jones’ offensive output shrunk last season after Connecticut didn’t have a reliable point guard to create open opportunities for her.
- Jones in 2021: 1.051 points per possession on post ups, 1.022 points per possession as a P&R roller
- Jones in 2022: 0.902 points per possession on post ups, 0.910 points per possession as a P&R roller
What makes this trade an “A+” is getting wing Kayla Thornton back in the deal. Rebecca Allen battled concussions for the majority of last season and is just getting back to full health now. She was highly productive for the Liberty in 2021 but Thornton comes in as a steady shooter who can guard multiple positions. More importantly, she will be available on day one.
The cherry on top of it all: After offloading Allen’s contract ($135,000 according to Her Hoops Stats), New York has space for a max player. All eyes will be on Breanna Stewart, who has been at the center of the rumor mill since last season when it was reported she took a meeting in free agency with the Liberty. Stewart re-signed with the Storm but New York is in a better position to win now than it was last offseason. Seattle only has two players signed on the roster heading into 2023 and would need to add another star to go along with Jewell Loyd in order to compete with the Liberty for Stewart’s services.
Make no mistake: this was a home run trade for the Liberty.
Connecticut Sun: D-
Any time a superstar wants out of the organization, there is little to no chance it can receive the value that player brought to the franchise. Same can be said for the Sun, who sent Jones to her preferred destination in New York. The front office stated recently it wanted to contend this upcoming season and the chances of that look worse than they did heading into the New Year.
The No. 6 pick in the 2023 draft they got in this trade from the Liberty has the upside to be valuable but this year’s draft class is considered by many to be top-heavy. After Aliyah Boston, Diamond Miller and Haley Jones, the draft could go in a billion different directions (which would not be the first time that happened in WNBA history). The Sun also traded their own first rounder today when they sent Jasmine Thomas and the No. 10 pick to Los Angeles to get more cap flexibility.
Allen and Ty Harris are intriguing players but don’t move the needle for the Sun at this point in time. As mentioned before, Allen had a stellar 2021 campaign before her production dropped off due to suffering multiple concussions. Harris never received consistent minutes in the WNBA after being drafted in 2020 with the No. 7 pick and will have a chance to compete with Nia Clouden and Natisha Hiedeman (if she re-signs) for the top spots in the backcourt.
In the last 24 hours, the Sun moved up four spots in the draft and got two veterans with question marks while losing a defensive stalwart in Thomas and one of the best players in the league in Jones. Not getting Allisha Gray, who requested a trade out of Dallas this offseason, in this deal hurts almost as much as letting go of Jones. This has a chance to set Connecticut back this season and into the future as well.
Dallas Wings: B
The Wings tabbed defensive minded Latricia Trammell as their next head coach earlier this offseason and went out and got a versatile defender in Natasha Howard in this deal.
Per Her Hoops Stats, Howard ranked in the 74th percentile in steal rate and in the 82nd percentile in block rate for the Liberty last season. With Isabelle Harrison likely leaving the franchise after being buried on the depth chart last year and being faced with the possibility of Teaira McCowan bolting in restricted free agency, the Wings give themselves some insurance adding a player who can play both center and power forward.
While Howard will provide a lot to a Dallas team looking to take the next step with its young core, losing Thornton–who is only making $109,000 according to Her Hoops Stats– hurts the team’s wing depth. Gray is most likely on the way out of town and there are no obvious fits on the open market for someone to replace Thornton’s consistency on both ends of the floor. This is a bigger loss for the Wings than what it looks like on the surface but they at least get a 20 point per game scorer in Howard to help fill in the void Thornton leaves behind.