As point guard Brittany Boyd and forward Reshanda Gray start settling into their new roles in the WNBA, there will be lots of question marks regarding whether or not these two Cal stars can translate their standout talents in college to success at the next level.
With Boyd going to the New York Liberty and Reshanda Gray to the Minnesota Lynx, there is a sharp contrast between each players’ new team and situation. Boyd is going to a team in need of instant production, while Gray will initially be relied upon to play more of a supporting role and add depth.
For Boyd, there will likely be a spot for her where she will be expected to contribute significantly. With the Liberty trading away star Cappie Pondexter for Epiphanny Prince, New York has a hole at point guard and will need immediate help for somebody to play alongside two-time all-star Prince. The Liberty hopes that the second half of that back court will be Boyd.
Arguably the strongest facet of Boyd’s game is her playmaking in transition opportunities. This season, if New York can prioritize rebounding and coming up with steals, the Liberty might not have to wait long for Boyd to develop from the college to professional level. During her time at Cal, Boyd was an all-around player who shined on defense, rebounding, passing and scoring. But when it came to leading fast breaks, she was on another level.
Boyd shined in Cal’s fast-paced system. Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s system accented Boyd’s greatest qualities — her speed, ball-handling and court vision. In college, Boyd played to her strengths and didn’t have to rely as much on her outside shooting, which could be improved.
Boyd can potentially emerge as a star right away, and WNBA fans can enjoy watching her achieve maximum production. But if there are huge systematic differences in New York head coach Bill Laimbeer’s game plan and if Boyd is forced to play in a way in which she has to rely on her shooting rather than her playmaking, it might take some time for Boyd to transition and adjust to WNBA play.
“I’m going to do whatever Bill needs me to do,” Boyd said moments after being selected.
Unlike Boyd, Gray will be joining a team that is already stacked. In 2014, Minnesota went 25-9 and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals. Prior to that, the Lynx made the finals three times straight from 2011-2013 and won in 2011 and 2013.
At Cal, Gray was the No. 1 option on offense. Because of her dominant post presence, the Bears built their strategy using her individual scoring ability to create opportunities for her teammates. But the Lynx are built differently.
Last season, Minnesota primarily relied on its big three. With guards Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whelan and small forward Maya Moore, the Lynx trio averaged 59 points of the team’s 81.6 points per game. Despite the uneven distribution of scoring, Minnesota was still second in the league in total team points scored. Gray has always been a scoring threat, but there doesn’t seem to be a dire need for her offensive post skills at the moment.
Gray, however, is more than just a one-dimensional scoring option. One obvious thing she will offer is height. Standing at 6-foot-3, Gray is already the second-tallest player on the team. Last year, Whelan and Moore both averaged six rebounds, which tied for second most on the team behind 6-foot-2 forward Rebekkah Brunson’s seven. If given the minutes, Gray could her name near the top of that list.
“She’s a player that occupies space really well down low,” said Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve. “She’s pretty solid at offensive rebounding. We think she’d be able to help our group by adding depth to our group. We’ve got a veteran group that I think she’ll have an opportunity to learn from.”
Minnesota already has a set starting lineup, and Reeve sees no reason for that to change despite the addition of Gray. But like almost everybody, the Lynx were ecstatic to come up with first-round talent and could not say no to Gray.
“When we saw a couple of picks in the first round that we didn’t anticipate, we began to think there was a possibility,” Reeve said. “And we were hoping.”
It will take some time for fans to get used to seeing Gray in this new supporting role. Reeve, however, believes Gray will fit in really well with Minnesota’s up-tempo style, where she won’t have to play with three-plus bodies surrounding her.
“The usage rate won’t be as high as it was in Cal,” Reeve said. “I think what Reshanda will find a little bit liberating is that she’ll probably get more one-on-one coverage down low versus a lot of the collapsed defense that she would see in college.”
Gray and Boyd will no longer be pouring on buckets and filling up the stat sheet in Haas Pavilion. But if both Minnesota and New York can develop and utilize the two soon-to-be Cal alumni for their strengths, the WNBA could end up seeing these two Bears consistently making headlines for the next several years.