2013 NBA Draft: Brittney Griner Can Play in the NBA, If Given Right Opportunity

Greg StarddardContributor IIIApril 7, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 03:  Brittney Griner #42 of the Baylor Bears warms up prior to playing against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the National Final game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Pepsi Center on April 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Baylor's Brittney Griner has the size, skill, talent and the basketball IQ to play professional basketball in the NBA if an owner is serious about giving her the opportunity. And don't give me that stuff about the league being too physical for her. I don't want to hear it.

Let's base this debate on talent and opportunity. If we do that, Griner has a legitimate shot. The other issue: an owner who is committed to signing a woman to play in the NBA, instead of seeking headlines and attention.

Now, before you get yourself worked up in a lather, I understand I'm darn near alone in the argument that Griner can do this. I get it. I don't agree with it, but I get it. Some of the world's greatest women basketball players have expressed their doubt, and I respect their opinion because they've been there and done that. But I don't buy it.

I've watched Griner dominate women's college basketball for four years. She's probably the most talented women's player since the great Nancy Lieberman or Anne Myers Drysdale. Both were outstanding, legendary players, but Griner, in my opinion, controlled the game much better than either of them. That's not a criticism of those two players, it's simply my opinion.

The biggest hurdle according to the critics is the physicality of the NBA. Some don't believe Griner can physically compete against men. I'm not sure about that. Look, she's 6'8". She can get her shot off against a man of similar size. Let me remind you there are a lot of 6'8", 6'9", 6'10" guys in the Association with marginal talent.

I'm not suggesting Griner get in the paint and mix it up with Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan. Clearly, she's overmatched against guys like that, but so are a lot of men. I do, however, see Griner shooting mid-range jumpers over 6'8" NBA players. I also see her shooting hook shots as she sweeps across the lane. Am I crazy? I don't think so.

Lieberman tells Kelly Whiteside of USA Today that talk of Brittney Griner in NBA sparks debate, and she's right. Lieberman knows what she's talking about because she's done it. Lieberman was an incredible college basketball player back in the day. She was also the first woman to play against men when she suited up in the USBL in the 1980s. Few people have more credibility about the topic of women and basketball than Lieberman.

At 6'8", I don't see the physical aspect of the game being a problem for Griner. I mean, 6'8" is 6'8". Either way, you have to guard the player whether it's a man or woman. I think she's physical enough to play defense against men. Do I see her guarding LeBron James?  No, that would be a clear advantage for the King.

If they get Griner in the trainer's room and put her on a weight program, she'll develop more muscle. That will help when she's trying to create room for her shot. It will also come in handy when guarding men who are stronger. Sounding better?

Can Griner actually make an NBA squad? Well, it depends on the franchise, the owner and the coach. I don't see Griner as a starter in the league, but I do see her coming off the bench. What about Charlotte? How about Orlando? Perhaps in Phoenix?  Those teams are rebuilding, right? Any of them would be a perfect fit.

Why?  Because she would be under less pressure and she'd have the time to develop. Coaches would have time to work with her. It would be the perfect situation for all parties involved.

if Griner is to succeed in the NBA, it has to be with the right owner. The Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban says he would consider drafting Griner and the Baylor superstar indicated she was game. It would be wonderful to see Griner in camp with the Mavs next year. I'd also love to see her in the NBA Summer League.

More importantly, the owner who signs Griner has to do it for the right reasons. If you're going to draft Griner  to get your face on television, don't do it. If you're going to pick Griner because your franchise desperately needs to put butts in the seats, walk away. If you're going to select her because you need the attention, forget about it.

But if you think Griner can actually play in the NBA, go for it.

When Lieberman played in the USBL, she made history. But she didn't get a shot because she was a woman. Lieberman competed against men in the professional ranks because she was a baller. She could shoot. She could defend. She could play. It wasn't an accident Lieberman played in a men's league. She got it done on the court.

Griner averaged almost 24 points a game her senior season at Baylor. She pulled down almost 10 boards each game. Griner blocked four shots a game. She's the complete package. This is a talented basketball player.

The fact that Griner is 6'8" will help her tremendously in the NBA. Players won't be able to push her around.  She's a physical presence, which means she has to be respected on the court. Not every NBA player will be able to guard her. Griner's height and many years of playing basketball will make it a challenge.

Before you totally dismiss the idea, keep in mind the Lieberman story. Critics thought she couldn't compete professionally against men, and she proved them wrong.

Now it's time to let Griner try to do the same.