The Janell Burse File
Drafted: 2001 second round (pick 28) by Minnesota
Born: May 19, 1979, New Orleans, LA
Experience: Three years
As of July 20 last summer, Janell Burse, then with the Minnesota Lynx, was going through a mundane WNBA career. Burse had played 66 games in the middle for the Lynx over two and a half seasons, starting just two of them. In 9.5 minutes per game, she had averaged 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds, shooting 36.4% from the field.
In Minnesota's next outing, on July 23 at Connecticut, Burse was forced into the starting lineup because of injuries to starting forward Svetlana Abrosimova and backup center Michele Van Gorp. With five points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes, Burse gave little indication of what was to come next. Over the next 13 games, Burse would not only refuse to give up her starting position, she would establish herself as one of the league's top centers.
"Out of nowhere, Burse has become the inside force the Lynx – who previously started no player over 6-2 – lacked," STORM.WNBA.COM noted in its preview of the Aug. 8 Storm-Lynx matchup. "As a starter, Burse has put up All-Star caliber numbers – 13.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 55.2% from the field."
Burse cooled slightly from that pace, but she finished the year averaging 11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in her 14 starts, shooting an impressive 51.6% from the field. Had she maintained those averages all season, Burse would have placed tied for 26th in the WNBA in scoring, tied for 15th in rebounding, sixth in blocks and joined teammate Tamika Williams as one of only two players in the league to qualify for the league leaders and shoot better than 50% from the field.
Burse's play had particular impact on the Seattle Storm. After Burse ascended to the starting lineup, Minnesota caught the Storm in the Western Conference standings, eventually claiming the fourth and final playoff spot by winning the season series 3-1. A big reason for that series victory was - who else? - Burse. She scored 20 points and had a career-high 12 rebounds, adding four blocks, against the Storm on Aug. 2 as the Lynx pulled out a 73-71 victory in Minnesota that would prove to be the difference in them making the playoffs.
"Janell Burse obviously has earned the respect of most players in this league," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan after the game. "We didn't come in ready to guard her tonight. She and Williams both tore our posts up, basically."
In her other meeting with the Storm as a starter, Burse had 14 points and six rebounds in Seattle on Aug. 8, though it wasn't enough as the Storm came away with a 68-65 win.
About to turn 25 next month, Burse possesses all the requisite tools to become a star center in the WNBA, especially now that she will have the opportunity to work under Donovan's tutelage. She can shoot; her 49% field-goal shooting would have been fourth-best in the WNBA had Burse had enough attempts to qualify. She can rebound, finishing 13th in the league with 9.9 rebounds per 40 minutes. And Burse is also a force defensively who blocked nearly a shot per game last season, ranked fourth in the league with 2.56 blocks per 40 minutes and is the Lynx's all-time leader with 56 career blocks.
Of all of Burse's credentials, perhaps her most impressive one is this: by WNBA.com's Efficiency rating system, taken on a per-minute basis, Burse ranked seventh in the WNBA (21.64 efficiency points per 40 minutes). Every single one of the six players ahead of her - Lauren Jackson (28.71), Chamique Holdsclaw (26.29), Tamika Catchings (24.56), Lisa Leslie (23.79), Margo Dydek (22.81) and Yolanda Griffith (22.46) - was an All-Star last season. While the rating system is biased towards post players - the top 11 players on a per-minute basis all play either power forward or center - Burse is still in impressive company.
HOW ABOUT BREAKOUT?
Columnist Kevin Broom of the NBA Web site RealGM.com has developed a formula to measure a player's "breakout" potential, or players whose value is hidden by limited minutes, by comparing their per-minute performance to their per-game production and league average. The formula is (EFF*40 - EFF*(MIN/G)) + (EFF*40 - LGEFF*40). Using the WNBA.com Efficiency rating system, Burse ranks as the league's number one potential breakout star, excluding players who played more than 30 minutes a game or less than 150 minutes total. Burse's 21.64 efficiency points per 40 minutes were well above her 8.2 efficiency points per game and the league average, about 13.6 per 40 minutes.