Day 3 of our look into the Sun's roster takes us to ...
Averages: 3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 30.1 shooting percentage
The Good: As far as pleasant surprises go in the WNBA, few, if any, have Gardin topped this season. A third-round pick two years ago by Chicago, Gardin spent the last two years overseas trying to become a more perimeter-oriented player Portugal and Turkey. Meanwhile, the Sun coaching staff kept tabs on her, though they weren't in need of frontcourt/wing help until this season after the departures of Nykesha Sales and Katie Douglas. Since, Gardin has started seven games, has proved to be a good presence on the boards and on defense, and at times, has shown progress with her range and scoring abilities. The highlight is a 14-point performance in the Sun's lone win over Detroit this season, though she's had other strong games, including a nine-rebound night at Indiana. For a training camp invitee who largely wasn't on any radars since graduating from Virginia Tech two years ago, the Sun probably couldn't be happier. She may not be the most surprising rookie (Sacramento's Crystal Kelly has her topped), but she's definitely in the mix.
The Bad: Sun coach Mike Thibault has cautioned observers about this, but Gardin largely represents how long the process of switching positions takes. For all the good she's done, the former power forward's spotty shooting has largely been the one thing that's held her out at times and cost her a regular spot in the starting lineup. She's made 11-of37 3s and is only a 50 percent foul shooter (11-for-22), and overall, she's just over 30 percent shooting from the floor. That's not to say anyone around the Sun was expecting her to be a sniper, but as Gardin slowly learns her position more and becomes more consistent with her shot, she can make more of a daily impact.
Outlook: Gardin's seeing roughly 14 minutes a game, but she's had an even larger role the last few weeks. She's played 20 or more minutes in seven of her last nine games, and though she isn't being counted on as a huge offensive force (in that span, she's averaged just under four shots per game), she's been solid in most other phases of the game. Once Barbara Turner recaptures her shooting stroke, Gardin's minutes may see a dip — and Turner's 12-point performance against L.A. before the break may be a sign of things to come. But I expect gardin to maintain a fairly consistent role off the Sun's bench.
On deck: Sandrine Gruda
In the hole: Amber Holt