The clock was ticking down as Los Angeles was getting ready to make its first pick in the draft last year. The phone rang and Connecticut was on the line trying to acquire the pick to draft Jonquel Jones.
The teams had been talking off and on for the previous few weeks, but a trade had three minutes to get completed. Sun general manager Chris Sienko had offered Chelsea Gray and the team’s pick for the No. 6 pick. The Sun really wanted Jonquel Jones.
After a few anxious minutes the teams agreed and the deal was done. It turned out to be one of the rare trades that really benefited both teams immensely. Gray helped the Sparks win the WNBA championship last year and Jones is helping the Sun to its best record in years. Both will be playing in the All-Star Game on Saturday in Seattle as first-timers.
Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller remembers the call last year when both teams were hustling to get the deal completed.
“As soon as Dallas made its pick right before Los Angeles we were ready,” he said. “There was an unbelievable time crunch. Looking back now, that three minutes helped LA win the title. It also put us in the position to have a core group together for the foreseeable future. It was obviously a win-win trade.”
The Sparks parlayed the pick they acquired from Connecticut in the deal to get Odyssey Sims from Dallas this year and draft Sydney Wiese.
“We definitely helped our guard position,” Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said. “From our standpoint there were many ingredients to this. It’s great that both teams got something out of the deal and have done well with it.”
Miller admitted his team had a lot of needs at that time. The Sun really wanted Jones, but didn’t want to take back-to-back post players with the No. 3 and 4 picks. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to get Jones, who is averaging 15.9 points and 11.3 rebounds this season.
The other benefit of the deal was that the Sun had been splitting the point guard slot between Gray and Jasmine Thomas with each getting about 20 minutes a game. With the trade it cemented Thomas as the point guard. She too will be playing in the All-Star Game this weekend.
“I love point guard play,” Miller said. “They brought different strengths to the table and we knew that in order to get better we needed to have one dominant point guard instead of splitting time at 20 minutes. We rolled the dice knowing that Chelsea had a little bit more history of injury.”
While Jones and Thomas will be starting, Gray was announced as a reserve on Tuesday.
She was joined on the west by teammate Nneka Ogwumike, Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus, Dallas’ Skylar Diggins-Smith and Phoenix’s Brittney Griner. Griner, the league’s leading scorer, won’t play this weekend as she injured her knee and ankle last week. WNBA President Lisa Borders will announce a replacement for Griner on Wednesday.
Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas will give the Sun three All-Stars as she was announced as a reserve. Atlanta teammates Layshia Clarendon and Elizabeth Williams will also be in Seattle as well as Indiana’s Candice Dupree and Chicago’s Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson. Borders will also have to name a replacement for Elena Delle Donne, who is out with a sprained ankle.
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