2022 WNBA awards: Sun's two-time All-Star Brionna Jones named Sixth Player of the Year in nearly unanimous vote
Brionna Jones continues to add hardware to her collection after another All-Star season. Jones, the Connecticut Sun's star reserve, was named the 2022 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year on Thursday, the league announced.
It was a near consensus call with 53 of the 56 votes by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters going for Jones. Chicago Sky forward/center Azurá Stevens received two votes and Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen had one vote.
Jones provided key contributions off the bench for the No. 3 seed Sun (25-11), finishing second on the team in scoring and third in rebounds. She was named to her second consecutive All-Star game in July when coaches voted her one of 12 All-Star reserves. She was the only player named to the team who predominately came off the bench and is fresh off a season in which she won Most Improved Player.
It breaks the three-year streak of Aces players winning the award. Dearica Hamby won in 2019 and '20 and Kelsey Plum took it home last year. Sun star Jonquel Jones was named Sixth Player in 2018. Renee Montgomery also won it while with Connecticut in 2012 and current Sun forward DeWanna Bonner won it three times in Phoenix from 2009-2011. It was first awarded in 2007.
The Sun are even at 1-1 in the semifinal series with the No. 2 Sky after a rough performance in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Sun, Brionna Jones' recipe for Sixth Player
The award is designated for a player who comes off the bench for more games than they start, and Jones, 26, was the runaway favorite since early in the season. She played in 29 games as a reserve and the Sun went 20-9. The 6-foot-3 forward is the first off the bench for the Sun behind stars Alyssa Thomas and 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones.
Jones averaged 13.8 ppg, the most of any reserve player who played most games off the bench. She added per-game averages of 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 23.6 minutes. Her 57.4% shooting clip is also amongst the best for a reserve player. She ranked third in win shares (6.3) behind MVP candidates Breanna Stewart (8.1) and A'ja Wilson (7.0), per Her Hoop Stats.
The Sun promoted Jones' campaign with a "TV Guide: Chef Breezy Edition," a nice sequel to its "Covergirl" series last year for the Most Improved Player award.
It detailed a "six-step recipe" to win the award and each page featured "ingredients" and "instructions." For a win against the Phoenix Mercury it was 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals with instructions such as "for the base, lay down 14 first-half points and 3 second-quarter steals."
The photo pages included Jones as "MasterChef," "Top Chef," "Chopped,"The Next Iron Chef, "The Great British Baking Show" and "Hot Ones."
The Sun drafted the Maryland standout with the No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft. She is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 and the franchise is in a salary cap bind. Three players are above the player max and a fourth isn't far from it.
Who else could have won Sixth Player?
Stevens and Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald had some of the best cases behind Jones for the Sixth Player award.
Stevens averaged 10.1 ppg (48% FG, 34.1% 3FG), 3.6 rpg and 1.1 bpg in 20.2 mpg coming off the bench. Her blocks led the Chicago roster. She came off the bench 27 times and the Sky went 20-7. Chicago tied Las Vegas for the best record in 2022 at 26-10 and earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
McDonald was similarly strong in her second WNBA season. She averaged 10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.2 apg and 1.4 spg in a packed stat line off the bench. She was 39.2% from the field, including 33.3% from 3-point range. Her scoring numbers and efficiency overall are up from her rookie season. Her defensive intensity helped Atlanta to a 99.8 defensive rating that ranked fifth in the league. Atlanta's 7.7 steals per game ranked fourth and opponent paint points ranked second.
Hines-Allen averaged 7.4 ppg shooting 39.7% overall, 4.7 rpg and 1.4 apg in 19 games off the bench. She averaged 16.3 minutes per game.
2022 WNBA awards list
Sportsmanship award: Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Executive of the Year: James Wade, Chicago Sky
Coach of the Year: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces
Rookie of the Year (and All-Rookie team): Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream
Most Improved Player: Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces
Defensive Player of the Year (and All-Defensive Teams): A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Sept. 7: Most Valuable Player
Sept. 15: All-WNBA