The All-Star break is here and I can't shake the feeling the Grizzlies need something. That one more piece to push the team over the edge. Almost every championship team adds a piece mid-season that can contribute. The team is reportedly looking to add someone, but instead of looking to the D-League or a trade, all Chris Wallace has to do is look to the WNBA. The Grizzlies need Elena Delle Donne.
For the unfamiliar, Elena Delle Donne is the star forward for the Chicago Sky WNBA team. The former number two overall pick has been an All-Star in her first two years in the WNBA, and she won the Rookie of the Year award over another star in Brittney Griner. The 6 foot 5 forward has averaged 18.0 points in her first two years in the league, during one of which she battled injuries for a majority of the season.
Here are some highlights:
The budding WNBA star has had success at home and overseas in the World University Games where she won the gold medal. She has shown that she is one of the best shooters in the WNBA by shooting 41 percent in her college career and 41 percent over two seasons in the WNBA. She's not just a shooter though. Delle Donne can attack the basket and can hit cutters with crisp passes due to her great vision. I think she will be the first woman to play in the NBA - it's just a matter of time.
ESPNW writer Kate Fagan wrote in 2013 that "No Woman, Not Even Griner, Could Play In NBA". The article was concerning the thought that Britney Griner could play in the NBA. While I agree with most of the article (especially that the woman's game should be appreciated more), I disagree with the premise that no WNBA player can play in the NBA. Her example of Brittney Griner is spot on. A 6 foot 8 skinny post player couldn't be successful in the NBA, but I think a 6 foot 5 perimeter player that splashes threes could be.
"If any woman could legitimately play in the league, she almost certainly would have to be a perimeter player, someone who could operate in the open floor and create her own offense -- someone whose skills wouldn't be hampered by the overwhelming size and strength of the NBA's interior players," Fagan wrote. "And even then, she would encounter other hurdles, such as the speed and quickness possessed by NBA guards."
And Will Garcia reiterates part of that sentiment in a piece, "In My Lifetime..." for Nylon Calculus: "To recap, to compete in the NBA, the most established role for a female player would be as a shooting specialist. To do well in this role, she would need to be a knockdown shooter (obviously), have good court-awareness and basketball IQ, and be an elite athlete by female standards."
Garcia then points to Delle Donne as the perfect candidate to make the leap.
"However, you also have to consider that Delle Donne put up these impressive shooting numbers as the number one option and has received much more defensive attention than she would in the NBA," Garcia wrote. "Assuming the worst, we know that she can at least hit the open shot from distance and space the floor at an NBA level. Because the bulk of her role as a scorer would likely be based on spot-ups and shots off of screens, she would be getting plenty of open looks. She’s also a skilled passer and has a decent handle, underrated skills that come in handy, especially for players who are physically overmatched."
I think that Delle Donne could be much more than just a spot up shooter, though. A Mike-Dunleavy-like spot up shooter would be her floor in the NBA. And considering the Grizzlies' offense and her skill set, she would flourish in that role. The Grizzlies would have their very own shooting Swiss army knife that Coach Joerger has never had the fortune of having. Pick and pops, running Delle Donne around Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph screens, and spotting up in the corner or above the break off of post ups would open up the Grizzlies offense to a degree never before seen.
The plan would be to reinstate Tony Allen to the starting lineup and push Jeff Green back to the bench. It's time for us all to face the reality that Jeff Green is a power forward. In the half court offense he's most effective from the corners and around the rim. He's fooled everyone into thinking he's a small forward with his athleticism in transition, but no; he's an undersized power forward that can sometimes play the three. Anyone with his skill in the post, athleticism around the rim and ability to hit corner threes should be playing power forward.
The bench with Delle Donne, Green, Kosta Koufos, Beno Udrih and a little bit of Nick Calathes/VInce Carter (when he's healthy) sprinkled in would be deadly. This unit would kill it and be an such an upgrade offensively to the current bench it's not even funny. And considering how much Coach Joerger has gone to the all bench lineup before the All-Star break, we'd see it some. The defense would certainly slip because of less Calathes/ TA and more Green, but not to a degree that it would hurt the team in a huge way.
Every time someone mentions a woman making the leap to the NBA, the first argument that is made is "She wouldn't be able to keep up on defense." I hate this argument so much. There are so many horrendous defensive players in the NBA. There is not one single thing suggesting she wouldn't be able to play within the Grizzlies' defensive scheme and be successful. I mean, I doubt she is Tony Allen, but I don't think Delle Donne would be awful. And if she was, the Grizzlies hid Rudy Gay on defense for two years. I think they can hide just about anybody.
The move would be a gamble, but shooters like Delle Donne don't grow on trees. The situation and timing are perfect. Now it's just about taking the chance no other team will take so they can get that ever elusive championship.