Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is known for getting people to talk, whether it’s expressing animosity toward NBA officiating or backing support for the Sonics not to be relocated in 2008.
Cuban’s latest gem is contemplating using his second-round pick in June’s NBA draft to select Baylor star Brittney Griner. Maybe he’d even sign the 6-foot-8 center to play in the NBA summer league.
“Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com this week. “You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”
Naturally, it sparked a debate over whether Griner could play in the NBA given her size and dominance of the NCAA women’s game. More than 13,000 people participated in an ESPN SportsNation poll about the topic.
Griner, who has an 88-inch wingspan, graduated as the NCAA Division I all-time leader in dunks (18) and blocks (748) and finished second in all-time scoring (3,283 points).
Yet the debate makes zero sense. Not because of some sexist stance or because women don’t need to prove they can play.
Griner, 22, couldn’t play in the NBA because she’s attempted zero three-pointers in her college career. Even the most open-minded basketball enthusiast knows Griner is too lanky at 207 pounds to push around Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, or Nick Collison in the paint.
But she doesn’t have the offensive range to be effective outside, either.
There’s only one post player NBA stars mention as a possible crossover – Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson.
“Now, she’s a player. She could play in the league (NBA),” former Sonic Kevin Durant told The Seattle Times in January 2008. “She’s a great player. She’s one of those players that can do just about anything on the floor. I really have a lot of respect for her game. I forget where she’s from (Australia), but she came over and took the game by storm and that’s something I like to see. That makes the game exciting, to see a tall player like that do just about anything.”
Jackson is 6-6 and a career 35.1 percent three-point shooter in 12 years in the WNBA. A three-time MVP center and 2007 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, she’s also too small to play inside. As Durant stated, given Jackson’s ability to stretch her game outside and handle the ball with the versatility of a LeBron James, she could theoretically be a threat like Dirk Nowitzki – a player to which Jackson is constantly compared.
Durant’s opinion wasn’t some company line, either. He’s an ardent fan of the women’s game, first attending Washington Mystics matchups in high school. Now starting for the Oklahoma City Thunder, he attended the women’s tourney regional in Oklahoma City, wearing a Seattle Mariners hat and flashing the three-points hand gesture as fifth-seed Louisville upset top-seeded Baylor in the Sweet 16.
The Cardinals used three-pointers, which Griner couldn’t defend, to shoot its way to an 82-81 win.
In the WNBA, Griner’s lack of offensive versatility shouldn’t limit her rookie season. Projected as the No. 1 overall pick to Phoenix, Griner will be surrounded by healthy stars Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor. As long as Griner can keep up with the Mercury’s fast pace, she can dominate in the paint while the all-stars take care of the perimeter, just as Griner did at Baylor.
Women centers on the pro level typically don’t extend themselves beyond a mid-range jumper. Along with Jackson, Storm center Ann Wauters (6-4) is the only other WNBA center who can really claim to be a three-point shooter. She’s made 24 of 67 attempts in her eight-year WNBA career. Storm reserve Ewelina Kobryn (6-4) is next, making 12 of 34 in two WNBA seasons.
But MVP center Tina Charles (Connecticut) and all-star center Sylvia Folwes (Chicago) are a combined 2 for 10, Charles attempting nine in her three-year WNBA career and making one.
So, Cuban can host his tryout. Griner is even game, asking the date and claiming she can “hold my own” via her verified Twitter account. Given she signed with sports management giant Wasserman Media Group this week, lead agent Lindsay Kagawa wouldn’t shy from concocting an event that would likely pay Griner more than her base WNBA rookie salary of $48,470 the first season.
Only like Seattle experiments Robert Swift, Calvin Booth and Mo Sene, Cuban will find it’s a complete waste of time and money.