Pain. That’s the only emotion that could be had watching Jasmine Thomas scream on her way down from a layup attempt in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Fever. The point guard, a mainstay since 2015 who’d never missed a game due to injury, had been one of the few Sun players consistently healthy since arriving to the team.

Thomas was diagnosed with a torn ACL, and she’ll miss the rest of the 2022 season. “Reading this still doesn’t even feel like it’s me we’re talking about,” she wrote on Twitter. “Still processing that this is my reality.”

After multiple seasons of Alyssa Thomas torn labrums (?) and a torn Achilles, and a 2020 opt-out from MVP Jonquel Jones, the Sun will play another season without a key starter as pressure mounts for them to win a championship. 

How will the Sun move on without J. Thomas?

The Sun are stacked this season in ways they weren’t before. The absences of Jones and A. Thomas in prior years paved the way for Brionna Jones, a then-deep rotation big, to assume a starting role and make an All-Star team. Jones then emerged as an MVP a year later, and A. Thomas, fully healed, is playing at an MVP-caliber pace to start this one. I haven’t even mentioned DeWanna Bonner, a four-time All-Star, on the wing.

The one piece they don’t have, though: a second pure point guard and defensive star like J. Thomas. She’s a unique piece to any puzzle but especially this one after the team lost Briann January in free agency. The Sun are left with scoring guards Courtney Williams, Natisha Hiedeman and Dijonai Carrington, and rookies Yvonne Anderson and Nia Clouden. 

Connecticut auditioned a few options on Tuesday 

In one game so far without J. Thomas, Connecticut went with Hiedeman at the starting point guard spot, but she played near-equal minutes to both Anderson and Carrington, while Clouden saw just four minutes. The trio totaled eight assists to one turnover, but it was A. Thomas who starred in the play-making role with nine assists on her own. 

Connecticut fell to the Wings as Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale, who both would’ve seen time with J. Thomas defending them, totaled 36 points. It’s the defensive side of the ball that the Sun might miss most from her.

The counter? Per ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, head coach Curt Miller intends to experiment this season with a Super Big lineup that includes A. Thomas officially slotting into the point guard position alongside Williams, Bonner and the Joneses. 

Can the Sun still win it all without J. Thomas?

With the second-best net rating in the league, out-scoring teams by 13.7 points per game, the Sun are still awesome with multiple All-Stars and maybe the best forward depth in the league. Though J. Thomas will be sorely missed and difficult to replace, Connecticut is wildly experienced with the idea of having to move on without one of its best players. Without A. Thomas for all but two games last year, they finished with the league’s best record. You can’t count them out yet.

Even after the injury, the Connecticut Sun have the second-best odds to win the WNBA championship at +360 (bet $100 to win $360).

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