Griner's skills tower over compatibility issues
The Phoenix Mercury's biggest thinkers have about seven months to officially make up their minds.
But a lot would have to occur between now and April to convince them not to choose Baylor's Brittney Griner with the first pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
Griner, a 6-foot-8 tower of basketball impact, will be the expected reward for the Mercury suffering through the worst season in their history. With injuries to superstar guard Diana Taurasi, forward Candice Dupree and forward Penny Taylor muting Phoenix's usual firepower, a 7-27 record was converted into 276 of a possible 1,000 ping-pong ball combinations.
And now, Mercury coach Corey Gaines and the management team will circle the informational wagons, assuring us they'll weigh all options before deciding upon which player to draft No. 1.
In Griner, they'll have the option of selecting perhaps the most effective game-changer in the history of women's college basketball. As a junior, her 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks per game escorted Baylor to a 40-0 record. As the most physically imposing player in the nation, she seems like the obvious choice.
While basketball watchdogs are trotting out the names of 6-5 Delaware standout Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggans as No. 1 candidates, Gaines – while seizing a noncommittal position – suggested Griner wouldn't be immune from adapting to the Mercury's lively tempo.
"We like to fast break, and you need to rebound and play defense to get out and run," Gaines said in an interview with the Associated Press soon after Wednesday's lottery. "Obviously, she (Griner) can block shots and rebound the ball well."
It also should be noted that the potential impact of certain players can transcend a franchise's prevailing style. Although Gaines would have little trouble utilizing Griner's abilities in perpetuating his quick pace, he's smart to enough to downshift long enough to take advantage of her chops near the basket.
Moments after informing viewers that Griner doesn't fit Gaines' system, ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck also said the Baylor star's WNBA impact would be just as high as it's been in college.
Suggesting the Mercury might draft someone other than the most dominant player – simply due to systemic issues -- seems like an insult to their intelligence.
For the record, Phoenix surrendered the most points in the WNBA (as expected) and was ninth in opponents' field-goal percentage. They did check in as a solid fourth in rebound differential, but the potential addition of Griner would, in theory, boost those categories without compromising the Mercury's ability to score at a high rate.
Barring injury or a dramatic shift in the ability of Griner to dominate basketball games, the Phoenix skyline should receive an impressive boost next spring.