For much of the past month, Jonquel Jones was overseas participating in EuroBasket with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her absence was a blow to the Connecticut Sun and the WNBA, but it was a major boost to the Balkan nation. With some record-setting performances, Jones led them to the quarterfinals for the first time, and a spot in the qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup.
In case there were still any doubts, Jones established during that tournament run that she is indeed one of the best players in the world, and can put a team on her back. Now stateside again, she'll resume doing as much for the Sun. In her very first game, she shook off any signs of jet lag and dropped 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three steals in one of the best performances anyone has produced this season.
For the season, the Sun are now 10-2 with Jones in the lineup; those two losses both came in overtime and were by a combined eight points. Overall, they're 12-5, which has them just half a game behind the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm for first place. Any concerns about how they would fare without Alyssa Thomas have been answered.
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Jones has been one of the most exciting young players in the league for some time. But now, in the middle of her fifth season, she's establishing herself as a full blown superstar. She's putting up a career-high 21.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, while shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point land. If she was a little bit better free throw shooter, she'd be on pace to join the vaunted 50/40/90 club.
It's still a little early to start having serious discussions about MVP and other end-of-season awards, but there's little doubt Jones is going to be a finalist for numerous honors. Now, onto this week's WNBA Power Rankings.
1. Las Vegas Aces (12-4) -- Last week No. 2
The Aces have taken over the top spot in the standings and the top spot in the Power Rankings. Over the weekend they took down the Storm in an overtime thriller that was one of the best games all season. As a result they now have the tiebreaker between the two teams, which could end up being crucial for seeding come playoff time.
2. Seattle Storm (12-4) -- Last week No. 1
With their heartbreaking loss to the Aces, the Storm have now dropped back-to-back games for the first time all season and have also fallen out of first place. There's little reason to worry, however, as those two losses came by a combined seven points. Plus, their next five games are against teams under .500, so they should quickly get back on track.
3. Chicago Sky (10-8) -- Last week No. 3
Chicago finally lost with Candace Parker in the lineup, and took out that frustration on Dallas with a breathtaking first half before coasting to victory. When the Sky really get it rolling, as they did in that game, they look like the scariest team in the league. Since Parker returned to the lineup, they're No. 1 in offensive rating (105.9) and No. 2 in defensive rating (94.3).
4. Connecticut Sun (12-5) -- Last week No. 4
Jonquel Jones returned in some style, putting up 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three steals in her first game back. With their best player in the lineup again, the Sun are once again looking like one of the best teams in the league. They've won four games in a row and are just half a game behind the Storm and Aces for first place.
5. Minnesota Lynx (8-7) -- Last week No. 6
The Lynx took down the Aces in overtime to get their biggest result of the season, and have now won three games in a row. As a result they've climbed over .500 for the first time and are up into fifth place at 8-7. One cause for slight concern, however, is that to get those wins Cheryl Reeve has had to lean heavily on her stars. Napheesa Collier didn't sit in their last game, and has played 115 of the last 125 minutes.
6. Phoenix Mercury (7-8) -- Last week No. 7
After over a month on the sidelines with a fractured sternum, Diana Taurasi returned to action this week in the Mercury's win over the Sparks. In the process she became the first player in WNBA history to reach 9,000 career points. Already the all-time leading scorer, she is simply consolidating that status at this point.
7. Washington Mystics (7-9) -- Last week No. 5
Just as the Mystics seemed to be figuring things out after their tough start, they've gone and dropped three games in a row for their longest losing streak of the season. It's hard to blame them, however, considering they've been playing with just six healthy players lately due to continued bad luck on the injury front.
8. Dallas Wings (8-9) -- Last week No. 8
A mini two-game winning streak for the Wings came to an end when they were nearly run off the court by the Sky. That they kept fighting and ended up only losing that game by 10 is a testament to this team's spirit. They're still young and inconsistent, but they've been competitive in pretty much every game this season. Arike Ogunbowale, who was recently named an All-Star for the first time, has extended her double-digit scoring streak to 54 games.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (6-9) -- Last week No. 9
Two more losses for the Sparks this week, who have now dropped four of their last five games. At 6-9, they're now in a tie with the Dream for 11th place. The defense, which has kept them competitive for most of the season, has faltered recently. Over this five-game stretch, they've allowed 102.4 points per 100 possessions, which is eighth in the league over that span.
10. New York Liberty (8-9) -- Last week No. 10
A win over the Dream helped stem the tide a little bit, but the Liberty are still reeling after their hot start. Injuries have played a role -- Natasha Howard is still out with a knee injury -- and the 3-point shooting that's such a foundational part of their offense fell off a cliff to 30.8 percent in June. They've lost eight of their last 11 games and have dropped under .500 at 8-9. That they're still in playoff position says more about the rest of the league.
11. Atlanta Dream (6-9) -- Last week No. 11
Atlanta finally snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over New York, and did so thanks to a career game from Crystal Bradford. The former first-round pick is back in the league for the first time since 2015, and is proving to be an important bench piece for the Dream thanks to her size and versatility on the wing. Their defense is 10.1 points per 100 possessions better when she's on the floor.
12. Indiana Fever (1-16) -- Last week No. 12
Twelve straight losses now for the Fever, who have dropped to 1-16 on the season to match their worst start in franchise history. Off the court, things aren't going so well either. They somewhat inexplicably waived Lauren Cox, their No. 3 overall pick from last year. Even if she had been struggling, giving up on a lottery pick so early makes little sense.