Former Cal women’s basketball players Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray are now five weeks into their WNBA careers, and it is now clearer that adjusting to the professional level is far more difficult than even they may have expected.
Gray has struggled to see much playing time at all this season, as she was drafted in the second round by one of the WNBA’s best teams in the league, the Minnesota Lynx. Boyd, who was drafted as a first-round pick by the New York Liberty, has lost her grasp on the team’s starting point guard position in the last couple of weeks.
Gray, who was named Pac-12 Player of the Year in her last season at Cal, is averaging only 4.3 minutes per game, and she has played in only eight of the team’s 10 games. The bigger problem, however, is how little she’s touching the ball when she plays. Gray is third from the bottom in the WNBA in field goal attempts per game, with only .75 per game. This comes after she efficiently used about 11 field goal attempts per game in her last season with the Bears, shooting 56.8 percent. Being able to put up that many shots and still do so efficiently is a skill indicative of the fact that Gray is adept at scoring — a skill she hasn’t yet shown in the NBA with only four career points.
While it is understandable that Gray has struggled to find the court on a team that won the championship two seasons ago, the Lynx could be doing a better job of getting her on the court in order to ensure that she develops as a player. Sitting on the bench and watching great players is a good way to learn, but it’s not as effective as getting live reps against other professional basketball players. Six of Minnesota’s 10 games have been blowouts decided by at least 15 points, and these types of fixtures would be great opportunities to let Gray tally some playing time and see which of her skills translate to the WNBA.
Boyd, on the other hand, hasn’t had as much trouble getting on to the court so far, averaging 19 minutes per game. She has even started four games for the Liberty. Things may change, however, as Bill Laimbeer, the team’s head coach, has been experimenting with finding his best starting lineup all season. Eight Liberty players have gotten turns as starters this year. In recent games, this has meant pulling Boyd out of the starting lineup and replacing her with Sugar Rodgers.
Given the team’s success with this lineup — the team is 3-1 — it doesn’t look like Boyd will be joining the starters anytime soon. In the last three games, she played only 10.7 minutes per game. She has still managed to put up respectable numbers on the season, with 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game — very strong numbers for a point guard. While she has seen moderate success throughout the season, Boyd is now faced with adapting to the challenge of making her mark on the game in far fewer minutes. If she can continue to play well despite the smaller role and improve her efficiency — as she is shooting only 38.8 percent from the field — Boyd can help the team continue its winning ways while making her way back into some bigger playing time.
While both players will surely say that they’re happy to be on such successful teams and that winning is all that matters — the Lynx are first in the West, while the Liberty are a game out of first place in the East — they would benefit from and enjoy some more playing time.