A year after turning in arguably the greatest season by a Bahamian athlete in history, Jonquel ‘JJ’ Jones took a step back this year, but still proved that she is among the game’s elite players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Jones finished seventh in voting for the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), a year after winning it all. The starting center for the Connecticut Sun experienced a drop-off in her numbers this year, but still had enough to lead the Sun to the league’s third-best win/loss record and within one game of advancing to the WNBA Finals for the second time in four years. They could get back to the finals with a win over the defending champions Chicago Sky in the decisive Game Five of their semifinal series tonight. That game is set to tip off at 8 p.m. at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The Sun have advanced as far as the semifinals in each of the last four years.
This year, Sun leader Jones got four third-place votes, four fourth-place votes and six fifth-place votes and finished with 38 points in the voting process. Las Vegas Aces’ forward A’ja Wilson, who was just named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year last week, added to her collection for 2022, as she was announced as the Kia WNBA Most Valuable Player on Wednesday.
Fifth-year player Wilson had 31 first-place votes and finished with 478 total points from a national panel of 56 sportswriters and broadcasters, to win her second MVP Award in the last three seasons and second in total. Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, had 23 first-place votes and finished in second place with 446 points. Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum finished in third place with 181 points and Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas was fourth with 94 points. Chicago starting center Candace Parker, who won the award in 2008 and again in 2013, was fifth in voting this year with 78 points. She and Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray got the other two first-place votes. Gray was eighth overall with 20 points. The only other player to finish ahead of Jones was Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith with 39 points.
Jones, 28, averaged 14.6 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field this season after dropping in 19.4 points on 51.5 percent shooting from the field in 2021. Her rebounding numbers also took a fall. Last year, she led the league in rebounding for the third time in her career, pulling down 11.2 rebounds per game. This year, she had 8.6 boards per game. Jones finished tied for third in rebounding and was once again top 10 in the league in blocks at 1.2 per game. She also averaged 1.1 steals per game – just off her career high of 1.3.
This year, Jones finished in a tie for fifth in voting for the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year after a third-place finish in 2021. She was also named to the league’s all-defensive second team this year, and last year, she was a first-team selection.
As for Wilson, she becomes the seventh player in WNBA history to win the award multiple times, joining three-time winners Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes and two-time MVPs Cynthia Cooper, Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker.
Wilson is also the fifth player to win the Kia WNBA MVP and Kia WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season, and the first to do it since Jackson in 2007. The others to do it are Yolanda Griffith (1999), Swoopes (2000 and 2002), and Leslie (2004).
Wilson finished fifth in the league in scoring (19.5 points per game) and second in rebounding (9.4 rebounds per game). She shot 50.1 percent from the field and led the league in double-doubles (17) and blocks (1.9 blocks per game).
With Wilson leading the way, the Aces (26-10) posted the most wins in franchise history and earned the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. The Sky had an identical record but lost the regular season head-to-head series against the Aces and settled for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The Sun was just one game back at 25-11 and earned the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Wilson has also led the Aces to the WNBA Finals for the second time in the last three years and for their third time in franchise history, dating back to the days when the team was known as the San Antonio Silver Stars. They await the winner of the Sun and Sky series in the WNBA Finals, looking to win their first WNBA title.
Game One of the WNBA Finals is set for Sunday, September 11, starting at 3 p.m.
As mentioned, Jones and the Sun take on the Sky in the decisive Game Five of their best-of-five semifinal series at 8 p.m. tonight in Chicago.