Could Brittney Griner survive in the NBA?

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brittney-griner-nbaIn 1979, Ann Meyers became the first and last woman to sign a contract with an NBA team. She inked a $50,000 no-cut clause contract with the Indiana Pacers, but, unfortunately, didn’t survive her three-day tryout.

Since that time, standout women basketball players have far more avenues to continue their playing careers. There are plenty of female European leagues along with the WNBA. And up until this week, the WNBA is pretty much where everybody expected 6’8″ Baylor Bears star Brittney Griner to be heading….that is, until Mark Cuban made some attention-seeking remarks about her.

Before a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Cuban claimed that he’d actually think about taking her in the 2013 NBA Draft. His statement went as follows:

If she is the best on the board, I will take her. I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. 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.

She’d still have to make the team. I’m not going to carry her just to carry her. I don’t think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.

brittney-griner-nba1Cuban went on to say that he thinks Griner would have plenty of marketing potential if she were to try out for his team. But is that where the discussion of Brittney Griner playing in the NBA ends, with marketing potential?

The Houston native has fascinated many basketball fans since YouTube videos surfaced of her throwing down two-handed dunks. Sure she wasn’t the first woman to dunk; however, Griner is the first known lady to be putting down two-handed slams with ease. She certainly lived up to expectations at Baylor too after racking up the following accolades:

– Led the Bears to the 2012 NCAA title and a 40-0 record
– Blocked 736 career shots, more than any college female or man
– Dunked a record 18 times, more than all other college women combined (15)
– Averaged 23.0 PPG or more for her last three seasons

Obviously Brittney Griner was a fantastic collegiate player – quite possible the best ever in women’s college hoops. This being said, it’s no wonder why the Phoenix Mercury are assuredly going to take her with the first pick overall in this year’s WNBA Draft. But is she good enough to transcend the women’s game and actually play in the NBA?

Brittney GrinerStarting with the positives, Griner has a huge wingspan (7’4″) and excellent timing, which easily explains her incredible shot blocking ability. She also developed a nice mid-range game while at Baylor and greatly improved her basketball IQ.

However, Griner weighs just 207 pounds, which at 6’8″ isn’t exactly the ideal NBA frame. Seeing as how she would probably be playing power forward in the NBA, Griner would regularly be competing against the likes of Blake Griffin (6’10”, 250 pounds), Paul Millsap (6’8″, 253 pounds), Zach Randolph (6’9″, 260 pounds) and David Lee (6’9″, 240 pounds). It’s hard to envision a scenario where she wouldn’t be constantly backed down by these guys and scored on at will.

Luckily we won’t ever have to see this scenario because Griner will be picked number one overall on April 15th. Cuban wouldn’t be able to draft her until June 27th, at which point he would have to purchase her rights from the Phoenix Mercury. And while Cuban may be an attention whore, he’ll likely be more focused on rebuilding a Dallas franchise that has spiraled downward following a 2011 championship season.

This being said, the hypotheticals involving Brittney Griner to the NBA are just something for the media to have a good time with. And if there ever is a female player who goes to the NBA, it’ll likely be a talented guard who doesn’t have to bump heads with 250 and 260-pound men in the paint.

NBA Power Rankings for March 24th, 2013

chris-bosh-miamiThe biggest story in the NBA remains Miami’s incredible win streak, which is the second best in NBA history. With 25 straight victories, the Heat need just eight more consecutive wins to tie the 1971-72 LA Lakers for the most ever. Miami’s success has overshadowed the fact that the Denver Nuggets have also played excellent with 15 consecutive wins. Thanks to their great run, Denver has climbed over several teams into the Western Conference’s third seed. You can check out how the rest of the league’s top clubs are doing below.

1. Miami Heat (54-14) – The question right now isn’t if the Miami Heat are the NBA’s best team, it’s if they can become the greatest team ever. Doing so will no doubt require topping the 33 straight wins by the Lakers and winning this year’s championship. As for the streak, the next four games are very winnable with Charlotte, Orlando (road), Chicago (road) and New Orleans (road) coming up. On March 25th, the Heat will face off against the Spurs in San Antonio. Assuming they can win the next four contests, this could be the deciding factor in their quest for greatness.

2. San Antonio Spurs (53-16) – San Antonio has certainly remained steady this season and have gone 8-2 in March. However, things look to get a bit hairier over the next five games because they face Houston (road), Denver, the Clippers, Miami and Memphis (road). If San Antonio can win three or four of these contests, they have a good shot at closing out the regular season as Western Conference champions. Greg Popovich has done a great job at keeping his players fresh this year because nobody plays more than 33 MPG. So watch out come playoff time!

ty-lawson3. Denver Nuggets (49-22) – For most of the season, Denver looked like a low playoff seed. However, they’ve now ripped off 15 straight wins and are looking to lock up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The win streak hasn’t been an easy task either because the Nuggets have had to beat Oklahoma City (twice), the Clippers, the Lakers, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Memphis along the way. Much like Miami and their hot streak, Denver will face the San Antonio roadblock on March 27th.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-19) – One could make an argument that the Thunder should be ranked ahead of Denver since they’ve consistently won all season – including going 7-3 over the past 10 contests. However, the three losses were against other top Western Conference teams in San Antonio, Memphis and Denver; the Nuggets loss was particularly bad since it was at home. With so many other West teams playing well to close out the season, it’ll be a challenge for Oklahoma City to make the NBA Finals again…but it’s still a realistic possibility.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-22) – Memphis doesn’t exactly feature explosive scoring since Zach Randolph leads the team with 15.8 PPG. However, this might be the best defensive club in the NBA since they’re tied with Indiana in holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 PPG. Marc Gasol (1.71 BPG) plays in a big part in this because he swats plenty of shots and alters others. Mike Conley (2.30 SPG) and Tony Allen (1.48 PPG) also do an incredible job of pressuring the ball and forcing teams to make bad decisions.

blake-griffin-clippers6. L.A. Clippers (48-22) – With other teams currently surging in the West, the Clippers have simply been playing above average. This being said, it’s tough to figure out where they fit in when the playoffs roll around. L.A. certainly has the fire power to win in the postseason with Blake Griffin (18.6 PPG), Chris Paul (16.8 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG). Plus their defense is pretty stout too with the Clippers holding opponents to 94.2 PPG. But the challenge will be putting all of this together through a seven-game series.

7. New York Knicks (42-26) – New York has really been an enigma this year. They began the season with the league’s best record for a while. Then the Knicks started cutting in and out of losing streaks while, subsequently, falling down to the Eastern Conference’s three seed at one point. As of now, they’re riding a four-game winning streak and tied with Indiana for the East’s second seed. Both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been huge since they’re averaging 28.7 PPG and 20.3 PPG over the past four games.

paul-george-pacers8. Indiana Pacers (43-27) – The Pacers are one of the more impressive teams this year when considering that their star, Danny Granger, has only played five games. Granger could be healthy for the playoffs; but if he’s not, Indiana should be fine with Paul George (17.7 PPG), David West (17.3 PPG) and George Hill (14.4 PPG) leading the scoring charge. Roy Hibbert (2.71 BPG) is also proving to be nearly impossible for opponents to shoot over.

9. Brooklyn Nets (40-29) – The Nets are desperately trying to hold onto the fourth seed in the East so they have first round home court advantage. They’re currently in the midst of an eight-game road trip, which should test this team’s mettle. Denver should especially be a tough contest because they’re on fire right now. One players that’s particularly interesting on this team is Reggie Evans, who’s averaging 10.2 RPG in just 23.6 MPG. He’s really been dominant on the boards lately after averaging 16.8 RPG in the past five contests.

10. Atlanta Hawks (39-31) – Atlanta moves back into our top 10 thanks to the demise of Chicago and mediocre play by Golden State over the past few weeks. This month started horribly for the Hawks when they dropped six out of seven games. But things have gotten much better lately with Atlanta winning five out of the last seven contests. The most impressive victories during this stretch include Milwaukee (twice), the Lakers and Brooklyn. Al Horford has definitely been a beast over the last five games with 19.0 PPG and 13.0 PPG.

NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 25th, 2012

When the Los Angeles Clippers were struggling in November and mired in a four-game losing streak, many people started to wonder if they’d truly joined the ranks of the elite. But following a huge winning streak, the Clippers are definitely among the league’s best teams. Now let’s take a look at where exactly they rank in the NBA’s top 10 clubs.

1. Miami Heat (19-6) – Miami retains the top ranking after winning three games last week – including one huge victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. A four-game road trip is coming up, but only the Milwaukee Bucks should pose a real threat during this stretch.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (21-6) – We expect a lot of jostling at the top of the Western Conference throughout the season. But for now, the Clippers are tops among the West and second overall after winning their past 13 games. What’s especially impressive is how six of these wins have come on the road.

3. New York Knicks (20-8) – The Knicks have stumbled a bit lately after losing three out of the past five games. But we still feel as if they’re one of the league’s top three teams at this point. Some people are worried that Amare Stoudemire’s impending return could hinder the team’s outstanding offensive production. However, if they want to get by Miami, they’re going to need some extra help.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-6) – The Thunder’s 11-game win streak is over, and the team has now dropped two straight games and two spots from our last power rankings. One was a road contest against Minnesota while the other loss was a close road game against Miami. On a side note, shooting guard Kevin Martin may not be James Harden defensively, but he’s certainly doing well offensively (15.7 PPG, 45.8% 3P).

5. San Antonio Spurs (21-8) – The Spurs stumbled in our past power rankings after losing four out of their last five contests. But they’ve since rebounded with victories over the Hornets and Mavericks; the latter was actually a 37-point blowout. San Antonio has shown some great balance with six players averaging double digits.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (18-7) – After getting off to a hot start this season, the Grizzlies have been up and down in December. They’ve went 6-5, but have excelled lately with four out of the past five games being victories. Zach Randolph is definitely looking like an All-Star at this point with 16.8 PPG and 12.8 RPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (16-9) – There’s a big gap between the Heat/Knicks and the rest of the East. For our money, Atlanta is the next best team. However, they drop a spot from last week after losing two out of the last three games. At least these losses came to Philadelphia on the road and Oklahoma City at home.

8. Golden State Warriors (18-10) – Most people have been waiting for a Golden State collapse since they weren’t predicted to be among the NBA’s top clubs. But this fallout hasn’t come yet and the Warriors are right in the thick of the Western Conference race. PF David Lee just seems to keep playing better and better since he’s now averaging 20.0 PPG and 11.3 RPG.

9. Indiana Pacers (16-12) – The Pacers opened the season in our top 10, but quickly fell out the following week. And for the early part of the NBA season, we hadn’t seen the same team that went 42-24 last season. Only recently has that club started to surface after Indiana won six out of their past seven games. None of the victories are particularly impressive, but they are wins nonetheless.

10. Houston Rockets (15-12) – Along with the Pacers, Houston is another team that’s resurfaced in our top 10. The Rockets landed in our power rankings in Week 2, but have since failed to be anywhere close until now. They’ve captured wins in six of the last seven games – including road victories over the Knicks and Bulls.

NBA Power Rankings for December 12th, 2012

Entering this NBA season, we had trouble deciding if it would be the Lakers or Oklahoma City Thunder coming out of the Western Conference. Thus far, the Thunder have held up their end of the deal by rising near the top of the West standings. The Lakers, on the other hand, are a dismal 9-13 and have dropped out of our top 10 for the first time this year. Will they be back? Who knows, but the following teams are looking like strong playoff clubs right now.

1. New York Knicks (16-5) – Little has changed from our rankings last week since New York is still on a roll. Sure the Knicks recently lost a road game to the Bulls, but they also defeated the Heat on the road just before that. And once again, this is happening with Amare Stoudemire still injured!

2. Miami Heat (14-5) – The Heat remain a fixture in our top two spots – despite losing to the league’s worst team (Washington Wizards) on December 4th. At this point, the Eastern Conference Finals are shaping up to be one heck of a battle! Of course, calling the Knicks and Heat in the Conference Finals now is a little premature.

3. San Antonio Spurs (18-4) – San Antonio checks in at number three in our rankings despite having a league-best 18-4 record. The Spurs have won 10 out of their last 11 games, but we’re going to need to see something out of them in the playoffs. Second-year PG Gary Neal is adding a nice shooting touch (36.8 3P%) for the club.

4. Oklahoma City (17-4) – We keep saying that the Thunder haven’t beat a top contender yet, but they certainly have beaten some solid teams during an eight-game win streak. For this reason, they move up one spot in our rankings this week.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (14-6) – The Grizzlies flip-flop with Oklahoma City following a loss to the Hawks at home. We don’t expect Memphis to remain stagnant here though since the top of the West should be pretty back and forth. Zach Randolph is providing some really nice all-around play with 17.6 PPG and 12.9 RPG.

6. L.A. Clippers (15-6) – Los Angeles has rebounded in a big way from a four-game losing streak at the end of November. They’ve now won eight straight games with victories over Utah, Dallas and Chicago during this span. Chris Paul is doing a good job of leading this squad with 16.2 PPG, 9.0 SPG, and 2.67 SPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (13-6) – As mentioned before, Atlanta recently won a big game on the road against the Grizzlies. And they’ve won four out of the past five contests – with the lone blemish being a road game against the Heat. Josh Smith has stepped up his game and shooting with the loss of Joe Johnson during the offseason; Smith is averaging 17.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG and shooting 46.2% from three-point range.

8. Golden State (14-7) – It’s truly time to start taking the Warriors seriously with recent wins against the Heat and Nets. With Andrew Bogut sidelined most of the year because of an injury, PF David Lee has carried the load inside with 18.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG.

9. Chicago (11-9) – The Bulls continue to stay above water even though they won’t have Derrick Rose for most of the season. Joakim Noah (10.8 RPG) and Carlos Boozer (9.9 RPG) are controlling the boards for Chicago while Luol Deng (17.8 PPG) is leading the club in scoring.

10. Brooklyn Nets (12-9) – In recent weeks, the Nets have hovered around the 5th to 7th range in our power rankings. But that was before a five-game losing streak happened! The least we can say about this bad run is that all five losses came to good, playoff-type teams. However, if the streak continues, don’t expect the Nets to be here next week.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 26th, 2012

The New York Knicks were flying high atop our NBA power rankings for last week. However, they’re really starting to miss Amare Stoudemire and have stumbled quite a bit lately. This being said, an old number one has reclaimed their previous spot in our rankings. Here’s a look at the 10 best teams right now.

1. Miami Heat (10-3) – The Heat were playing fairly mediocre to begin the season. However, they’ve since went on a hot streak and won four games in a row. Combining this with the fact that the Heat already look better than last year’s championship team, and we couldn’t resist putting Miami at number one.

2. San Antonio Spurs (12-3) – Just like always, there’s nothing flashy about the Spurs. Tim Duncan paces the team in scoring with 19 PPG while Tony Parker is dishing out an admirable 7.5 APG. But even without flashiness or big numbers, the Spurs have managed to win their first four games on a six-game East Coast road trip.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (10-2) – At the beginning of the year, we said the Grizzlies were a fringe title contender who’d have to battle through a tough Western Conference. And so far, Memphis has done a great job at standing out in the talented West. Zach Randolph has really been hitting the boards while Mike Conley Jr. (14.8 PPG, 6.5 APG) is having his best season ever.

4. Brooklyn Nets (9-4) – We weren’t exactly expecting to see Brooklyn with this kind of record at this point.After all, they faced the L.A. Clippers, Portland, and New York in the past three games. But following three straight wins against these clubs, we have to take the Nets very seriously.

5. New York Knicks (9-4) – Just last week, New York was cruising along with an 8-1 record and looking like the league’s best team. However, the Knicks lost a close game in Dallas, got blown out in Houston, beat Detroit, then lost an overtime thriller in Brooklyn. All of this amounts to losing three out of their past four games, but things should get better soon with an easy upcoming stretch.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) – As we’ve said before, the Thunder still have yet to beat any serious title contenders, so it’s hard to rank them much higher than this – even with a very good record. Once we see Oklahoma start winning against top-tier teams, we’ll be better able to gauge their chances of success without James Harden (trade to Houston).

7. L.A. Clippers (6-5) – Boy how much things change in a week’s time. We were ready to anoint the Clippers as a fully-matured squad capable of winning a championship in our last rankings. However, three straight losses to the Nets, Hawks and Hornets have us thinking otherwise. Jamal Crawford (18 PPG) continues to slide after an incredible start.

8. Atlanta Hawks (8-4) – One squad that has been playing great basketball lately is Atlanta. Winners of five straight games, they’re a very balanced unit. Balanced may not be the word since Al Horford is the leading scorer with just 15.9 PPG. Jeff Teague (13.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 1.5 SPG) is easily having his best season as a pro.

9. L.A. Lakers (7-7) – Just when we thought the Lakers were getting over their rough start and gelling as a team, they get blown out in Sacramento, then drop another game against Memphis. A lack of bench depth could really continue to hurt the Lakers all season and cripple any title chances.

10. Denver Nuggets (8-6) – After losing three straight games to open the season, Denver has played much better and won four out of the past five games. Six different players are averaging double digits on this team with Andre Iguodala leading the way with 15.3 PPG. But can this ultra team-based approach result in a serious title run? History suggests no, but we’ll see….