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The WNBA offseason has sprung to life with a blockbuster three-team trade that sees the New York Liberty acquire former MVP Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun. Jones, who helped the Sun reach the Finals last season, had asked out earlier in the winter and named the Liberty as her preferred destination, according to Rachel Galligan.

"To say I'm excited would be a huge understatement," Jones said in a statement. "To the fans, future teammates and everyone that has welcomed me to New York, thank you! I can't wait to get this season going and show out in the Big Apple!!"

In addition to Jones, the Liberty also acquired veteran wing Kayla Thornton from the Dallas Wings. The Sun received Rebecca Allen and the No. 6 overall pick from the Liberty and point guard Tyasha Harris from the Wings. As for the Wings, they added Natasha Howard and the reserved rights to Crystal Dangerfield from the Liberty. All three teams confirmed the deal on Monday. 

This year's free agency period, which begins on Jan. 21, features six former MVPs as unrestricted free agents. Jones, who won that honor in 2021, pre-empted all of them by getting her move first. In doing so, she has radically altered the league's power structure and the present and future of three clubs. 

Let's grade the trade.

Liberty receive

  • Jonquel Jones (via Sun)
  • Kayla Thornton (via Wings)

The Liberty are the big winners here as they add not only the best player in the deal but one of the best players in the world. A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart are the only two players who have a claim that they're better, but when Jones has it going you sometimes question if that's really true. 

Jones possesses a unique combination of size, athleticism and skill on both ends of the floor; she is a rare player who actually can do it all. Even in a 2022 season where her offensive involvement with the Sun was bizarrely limited at times, she still put up 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 stocks (steals plus blocks) per game on 51.3/36.9/80.2 shooting splits and made Second Team for both All-WNBA and All-Defense. 

The Liberty have been looking for a reliable, high-level big for a few seasons now, and Jones will more than fill that role. If they had done nothing else with this move, it still would have been a major coup. As it was they also added Thornton and created more cap space in the process. 

Thornton's game guarantees that she won't stand out, and spending the majority of her career on a very average Wings team didn't help matters. In 200 career games between the regular season and playoffs, she's scored 20 points just four times. But while Thornton's numbers don't pop, her impact does. She's a dogged defender across multiple positions and routinely makes winning plays. 

Furthermore, because Jones took a slight discount to re-sign with the Sun, she actually makes less money than Howard, while Thornton makes less than Allen. With Dangerfield's money also off the books, the Liberty have over $300,000 in cap space, more than enough to sign a max free agent (Breanna Stewart, perhaps?). 

Jones specifically requesting to play in NYC obviously helped, but the Liberty crushed this trade. 

Grade: A+

Sun receive

  • No. 6 overall pick in 2023 Draft (via Liberty)
  • Rebecca Allen (via Liberty)
  • Tyasha Harris (via Wings)

The Sun got back to the Finals last season, but they didn't have enough offensive firepower to handle the Las Vegas Aces, and fell in four games. A month later, long-time head coach Curt Miller departed to take the Los Angeles Sparks job. Now, Jones is out and an era of Sun basketball is officially over. 

You're never going to get a fair return when a player of Jones' caliber asks out, and that problem is exacerbated when they specifically request one team. Still, you would have hoped to get more than this in exchange for an MVP candidate if you were the Sun. 

The No. 6 overall pick sounds nice, but this is not a particularly deep draft. Barring an unexpected development, they won't be adding a franchise-changing player at that slot. Allen is a solid wing and will really boost their poor spacing if she can find her 3-point shot again, but her health will be something to watch. She suffered a nasty concussion last season and during the World Cup last fall was diagnosed with multiple broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. As for Harris, she'll improve their point guard depth but has been incostent during her first three seasons in the league. Maybe that changes with more playing time and a different team, but as of now she does not appear to be a significant addition. 

With Jonquel Jones gone, the Sun are expected to focus on keeping reigning Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones. Per Alexa Philippou, they'll give Jones the core designation ahead of the deadline to do so on Friday. Brionna Jones remains underrated even after two All-Star appearances, and keeping her along with Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner will ensure the Sun remain competitive. 

Still, there's no way to replace Jonquel Jones, and the Sun are far worse off than they were prior to this trade. 

Grade: D-

Wings receive

  • Natasha Howard (via Liberty)
  • Crystal Dangerfield (via Liberty)

The Wings are perhaps the most interesting subplot to this trade, as they jumped in to help facilitate the deal and ended up swapping Thornton and Harris for Howard and Dangerfield. From a pure talent perspective, this is an upgrade for the Wings, but it does lead to some roster-building questions, particularly in the frontcourt. 

Howard, in large part due to injuries, has never quite recaptured the form she showed in 2019 when she made All-WNBA First Team and won Defensive Player of the Year. She had a strong 2022, though, making the second All-Star appearance of her career while putting up 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 stocks per game. 

She's an excellent athlete who can get up and down the floor and will give new head coach Latricia Trammell plenty of line-up flexibility. At the same time, figuring out the best way to pair her with Satou Sabally, Awak Kuier, Isabelle Harrison and Teira McCowan presents a real challenge. (It remains to be seen if both Harrison and McCowan will be back, as they are unrestricted and restricted free agents, respectively.)

Dangerfield, meanwhile, is a slightly more reliable back-up point guard than Harris. Though undersized at 5-foot-5, she knows how to run an offense and will keep the ball moving without making too many mistakes -- a definite positive given some of the offensive players the Wings have. 

This is going to be a busy offseason for the Wings, who have some big decisons to make, not only in regards to free agents such as Harrison, McCowan and Marina Mabrey, but with disgruntled player Allisha Gray, who is reportedly on the trade block. The decisions they make there will help determine just how successful this trade winds up being, but regardless it was a worthwhile swing at a big talent upgrade. 

Grade: B+