One day, we will see a woman make it in the NBA and compete at the level of her male peers. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban may grant the first female the chance, as he's considering drafting Baylor Bears center Brittney Griner (via ESPN Dallas).
Unfortunately, Griner's position and playing style would doom her in the NBA.
Cuban's comments have come with controversy, as some have questioned whether this is a publicity stunt or a genuine form of interest. The story gets more interesting when you hear what Griner had to say in response.
"I was like, 'Wow, Mark Cuban. He tweeted me?'" Griner said. "It definitely made me feel good, feel special. I tweeted him back, 'When is tryouts?' I can hold my own. I'll try too. I'm not going to back down from a challenge."
"When are tryouts?" Griner said Saturday afternoon in New Orleans, site of the women's Final Four. "The WNBA is where I'm at. That is where I'm going. After that, if I get a shot, why turn down something like that? That's big, even if you don't make it. Hey, at least you tried. Somebody pushed the envelope."
And so the controversy continues and the intrigue mounts.
There's no question that Griner is one of the most dominant players in the history of women's college basketball. She was the 2012 AP Division I Player of the Year, won four Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year trophies and holds the NCAA record for blocked shots—regardless of sex.
Unfortunately, position and playing style play a factor here.
Unfiltered Scouting Report
We're inevitably going to get caught in the topic of "Can a woman play in the NBA?" Before we do, we must evaluate Brittney Griner as if sex were not an issue in this conversation.
What would we say about her if she was a male?
For starters, Griner is an undersized center at 6'8" and 208 pounds. While her anticipation, positioning and footwork is on par with the best of them, she's not the quickest player, nor the most explosive leaper.
With this in mind, we're inclined to believe she would struggle as an every-possession defender.
Furthermore, Griner's offensive game is based upon her ability to create separation with a drop step and shoot over smaller defenders. Seeing as no one in the collegiate game possess her size, strength and length, that was manageable for her.
We've yet to see how she'd fare in terms of scoring over players her size.
Working Down Low
At 6'8" and 208 pounds, Brittney Griner lacks the build necessary to defend the post. While the common belief is that the center position is dead, there are elite players who thrive with their backs to the basket.
Brook Lopez is an example, at 7'0" and 265 pounds.
With players of this build coming in on a nightly basis, Griner would likely be limited to flex situations in which her opponents are of a lesser build. This would limit a coach's flexibility in using his players, thus capping her ability to find the floor.
More importantly, it would create a significant positional disadvantage should a team opt to pound it down low.
Griner is capable of defending the post from a fundamental standpoint, as she displays superb anticipation on shot attempts. Going up against the more powerful interior players, however, Griner would struggle to hold her own in terms of strength and physicality.
It would take a significant deal of bulk—and a growth spurt, if that's possible.
A Woman in the NBA
When it comes to the potential for a woman to make it in the NBA, I believe that it will one day happen. The issue is, a female entering the ranks of the NBA hinges upon her position and style of play.
If and when we see it, it will need to be a perimeter player who can create their own shot and stroke it consistently from beyond the arc.
That's not an impossibility, as players such as Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore come to mind. Moore, at 6'0" and 175 pounds, and Taurasi, at 6'0" and 163 pounds, could struggle with the physicality.
Although the game is significantly watered down from what it used to be, both women would need to be able to defend the modern-day point guard. For instance, Russell Westbrook stands at 6'3" and 187 pounds.
With this in mind, the first logical step for a woman making it in the NBA would be to find a player who comes in as a shooter and off-ball distributor.
If a woman were to come in and shoot at a clip of at least 35 percent from beyond the arc, she could make it work. She could work off of screens, create openings with her own dribble and step back for a J.
If that woman was unable to work with the ball in her hands, however, ego could play a role in how tightly she's defended—a fact we must acknowledge, no matter how upsetting it may be.
Jeremy Lin recently spoke out about how he is treated differently than others because he's Asian-American (via CBS Sports). The same would be said for a woman, as the jock mentality remains in professional athletics.
It's possible, but a woman in the NBA would need to be able to handle the ball and shoot from distance—traits Griner does not yet possess.
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