Mark Cuban, the flamboyant owner of the Dallas Mavericks, made comments Wednesday afternoon saying that he would consider drafting Baylor women’s basketball star Brittney Griner in the second round of this year’s NBA draft.
The question is, are the comments for real? Or is this just a publicity stunt?
There’s no doubt that the first female in the NBA would sell tickets, and when it comes to originality, Cuban has done more than enough to set himself apart from the other 30 owners in the league. I mean, how many owners do you see howling at the referees like fans in the stand?
No woman has ever been drafted to, and/or played in an NBA game, but if and when that time comes, I can absolutely see Cuban behind the scenes. And if this were to be the year that the precedent is broken, I think that Griner would be an absolutely worthy pick.
Few women have dominated the college circuit quite like Griner has. The senior Bear led Baylor to just the seventh perfect season in NCAA women’s basketball history last season, and became just the ninth player to reach the 3,000-point plateau — just the second player, men or women, to achieve both tasks. UConn standout Maya Moore is the other.
However, should Griner don an NBA uniform next winter and play in a game, I think she will have a long road ahead of her.
Griner, who checks in at 6-foot-8 and about 207 pounds, was a physical and dominant force on the women’s circuit — breaking records for both blocked shots and slam dunks. However, if and when she makes it to the NBA, she will go from a center who stands above the rest, to just another tall guard or small forward.
Granted, he may have about 60 pounds on her and he may be the best in the game right now, but look at how LeBron James, arguably the most dominant player in the NBA, uses his 6-foot-8 frame — James can shoot, pass, dribble, and drive all at an all-star and MVP-level. Griner has attempted just five 3-pointers in her career (although she did make two of them), and has dished out just 239 assists in her four years. In the NBA, you can’t be a (successful) 6-foot-8 swingman who cannot shoot, dribble, or pass.
Relative to her style of play, Griner’s game at Baylor compared to that of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, Dikembe Mutumbo, Hakeem Olajuwon, and other great big-men in the NBA — using size to their advantage. Griner will not have that luxury in the NBA. As opposed to the women’s college circuit, in which a 6-foot-8 player is a rarity, the NBA is flooded with players of the same size, and taller. If she cannot find a way to become a more physical player, Griner will be just another statistic.
Some people think Griner will be completely ineffective in the NBA. Embarrassingly ineffective, actually.
CBS Sports Radio host Brandon Tierney tweeted:
Interesting concept from Mark Cuban, but let’s be honest: if Brittney Griner played the worst NBA player 1-on-1, she would lose 1000-0.— Brandon Tierney (@BrandonTierney) April 3, 2013
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch snagged this quote from UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who directed his comments more towards Cuban:
UConn coach Geno Auriemma on Mark Cuban: “His genius would take a huge hit if he drafted Brittney Griner.”— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 3, 2013
Now, when I attended Haverstraw Middle School back in the stone age, I witnessed Brianna Peterson, the best player on our undefeated girls squad take on any male challenger 1-on-1, and then beat them. Peterson later went on to be an all-state player at North Rockland and a star for Catholic University, netting over 1,000 career points for the Cardinals.
So I have no doubts that “women can hang with the men” or anything like that, I’m just saying the NBA is a completely different level. With that being said, I think this is all a publicity stunt. While I would love to see Griner (or any woman for that matter) in an NBA uniform, professionally I can’t see Cuban actually pulling the trigger to pick her. Even if he does, I don’t see her playing much in the NBA, so would it really be worth it?
If she is selected, why not test the NBA waters? If she doesn’t get minutes, or is not up to the level of competition, I’m sure there are plenty of WNBA teams who would welcome her with open arms. Whether she succeeds or fails in the NBA, the second Griner steps on to the court, she will make history; and nobody can ever take that away from her.
We’ll see what happens on June 27.
Photo credit: Charlie Neibergall, AP