Sports

Jones finishes tied for third in DPOY voting

The Sun will host the Chicago Sky in game one of their WNBA semi-final series on Tuesday

For the second time in three years, missing last year because of time taken off over concerns for the coronavirus pandemic, Bahamian Jonquel “JJ” Jones is a top five finisher for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Award.

Jones, who tied a career-high in steals at 1.3 per game and added 1.3 blocks per game, finished tied for third for defensive player of the year for the second time, and also secured her second first team selection on the WNBA All-Defensive Team. Jones recently won the peak performer award for rebounds, for the third time in her career, and was unanimously selected as the the Associated Press’ (AP) WNBA Player of the Year.

Many believe it’s a prelude of what’s to come. The Bahamian women’s professional basketball player is the frontrunner for the WNBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, which would be a historic accomplishment for a Bahamian athlete. No other Bahamian athlete has ever won an MVP award in a major professional sports organization.

The Connecticut Sun post player had an impressive year, averaging career-highs in points and assists and tying a career-high in steals. Jones dropped in 19.4 points per game – fourth-best in the league this year and four points per game higher than her previous career-high of 15.4 that was done in 2017. She won the rebounding title for the third time in her career, averaging double-digit rebounds at 11.2 per game.

Jones, 27, was one of just two players in the league to average a double-double and led the league in double-doubles with 18. The other player to average a double-double this season was Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles who was named as the 2021 Kia WNBA Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday – her fourth top defender award in the league, joining five-time winner Tamika Catchings as the only players in league history to win the award four or more times.

Fowles received 31 votes from a national panel of 49 sportswriters and broadcasters. Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes finished second place with six votes, and Jones and Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner tied for third with four votes each. Phoenix center Brittney Griner received two votes for fifth and Connecticut guards Briann January and Jasmine Thomas received one vote each.

As for 6’6” 202-pound post player Jones, she was sensational this year leading the Sun into the playoffs as the top seed with a 26-6 win/loss record – their best mark in franchise history. They ended the season on a 14-game winning streak – the fourth-longest in league history, and the longest win streak at the end of a season in history.

The Sun will host the Chicago Sky in game one of their WNBA best-of-five semifinal series at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Tuesday – one of just two teams to beat them at least twice this season, but both times without Jones in the line-up as she was playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 2021 European Women’s Basketball Championship (EuroBasket Women 2021).

In addition to the 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per contest, Jones averaged a career-high 2.8 assists per game and tied her career-high of 1.3 steals per game. She finished in a five-way tie for 10th in steals. Jones added 1.3 blocks per game – finishing in a five-way tie for seventh in that category. Jones was the first player in league history to average 19-plus points, 11-plus rebounds, one-plus steals and one-plus blocks per game during the regular season.

With her in the lineup, the Sun went 24-3, and when she was out, they were just 2-3. Overall, they matched a franchise record for wins at 26, had their fewest regular-season losses in franchise history, and the best winning percentage (.8125) in franchise history. They also had the fewest home losses in franchise history, finishing 15-1 at home, and will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jones was named as the WNBA Player of the Month two consecutive months to end the season and three times in total in 2021, and also won four player of the week awards.

Jones scored 20 or more points in 10 games this season, including a season-high 31 points on June 5 against the New York Liberty.

In addition to Jones being named AP Player of the Year, her teammate Brionna Jones secured the AP Most Improved Player Award, and Sun’s head coach Curt Miller was named as the AP Coach of the Year. Also, of the 10 players named to the WNBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams, there were four from the Sun.

Jones and Brianna January were named to the first team while Jasmine Thomas and Brionna Jones received second team honors. On the first team were Jones, January, Fowles, the Phoenix Mercury’s Brianna Turner and the Los Angeles Sparks’ Brittney Sykes. In addition to Thomas and Brionna Jones, the second team included the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, the Mercury’s Brittney Griner and the Washington Mystics’ Ariel Atkins.

The Sun held their opponents to less than 70 points in a total of 18 contests this year and had the number one overall defensive rating (91.7). Additionally, all five of the Sun’s starters, including DeWanna Bonner, held the top five spots in individual defensive win shares.

As for Jones, she is also a former WNBA Most Improved Player and a WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year.

The Sun is preparing for games one and two of the WNBA Semifinals, scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, both on their home court at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The games will be broadcasted on ESPN2, and tip-off is set for 8 o’clock each evening.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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