By Ben Golliver
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday that he would consider drafting Baylor's Brittney Griner in the second round of the 2013 draft or including the three-time, first-team All-America center on his organization's Summer League roster.
ESPNDallas.com reports that Cuban has apparently given the idea some serious consideration.
"If she is the best on the board, I will take her," Cuban said before the Mavs' Tuesday night game against the Los Angeles Lakers. "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," Cuban said. "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."
Although a woman has never played in an NBA game, Griner would not be the first woman to be drafted or the first to be signed by an NBA team.
Lucy Harris was selected in the seventh round of the 1977 draft by the Jazz after being selected to three straight All-America teams at Delta State University. Ann Meyers Drysdale was signed as a free agent by the Pacers in 1979 and participated in a camp with the team before she was cut.
Griner, 22, averaged 23.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.2 blocks as a senior after leading Baylor to the 2012 NCAA title as a junior. The Associated Press reports that the 6-foot-8 Griner recorded 11 dunks this season.
The gut reaction here is three-fold: Griner would be a very, very, very long shot to stick on an NBA roster, there's no harm or meaningful cost involved in finding out and Cuban seems like the right outside-the-box executive to give her a chance. The big questions: is she interested, and would the WNBA team that drafts her be in a position contractually to accommodate the opportunity?
If so, Summer League would be the perfect venue, as it offers a public stage without overbearing amounts of pressure. The league requires a commitment of just a few weeks, enough time to get in a few practices and five games. If that was too much for her WNBA team, perhaps a long weekend that lets her suit up for two or three games? Surely it would be in the WNBA's interest from a publicity standpoint to help facilitate this trailblazing effort.
The logistics on the NBA's side are easy. The 15th roster spot on an NBA roster is often an important commodity; the same can't be said about the last spot on Summer League rosters, which are usually very flexible. There's room for her, as Cuban well knows. If the skeptics are proven correct and she can't compete, her minutes can be carefully managed (or eliminated) just like any other summer reserve. No harm, no foul.
The potential positives vastly outweigh the negatives. A Griner appearance would be, by far, the biggest story in Summer League history, and she would lead the nightly news programs, in all likelihood, simply by stepping foot on the court. How many people does she reach and inspire by sinking a mid-range jumper? How many jaws would she drop by getting loose in transition for a dunk? Most importantly, how many minds would she change just by taking part in the huddles?
It's a safe bet that the immensely talented Griner wouldn't want to feel like she was part of a publicity stunt and wouldn't want to be given an opportunity that she hadn't earned. But at some point she has to be curious, right? She did it all at Baylor and she clearly did enough to catch Cuban's eye. That should serve as proof that she deserves this conversation and this hypothetical opportunity. There's no such thing as "trying and failing" here. If she tries, she wins, female basketball players win, the WNBA wins and fans of basketball win, no matter the outcome.