The NBA season tips off today. Seeing as the majority of members currently sitting on the ThinkTank Panel (Of One) have some kind of tie to the Portland metro area, the ThinkTank Panel (Of One) would like to commemorate the 2010 Tip-off by correcting a common misconception that has plagued the Trailblazers of late.
There is this perception that Brandon Roy, the Blazers 3 time all star guard, is incapable of running a fast break. Phrases like “pace” and “initiate the offense through Roy” have been used to paint Brandon as a prison shackle and speed bump to the Blazers offensive output. Numerous articles, editorials and fan comments on the subject over the past 4 seasons have made this view nearly ubiquitous. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Everyone seems to have forgotten Roy played in an ultra up-tempo college system at Washington. In 2004 the Huskies averaged 86.5 points per game (2nd in the Nation) and earned the #1 seed in the west region before losing to Louisville in the sweet sixteen. That team featured the uber fast Nate Robinson and Roy had no problem keeping up with Krypto Nate. In his senior season Roy took over the main ball handling duties and went on to win Pac 10 player of the year honors. Despite loosing Robinson, leading scorer Tre Simmons, and 3 year starter Will Conroy to graduation, the Roy led Huskies’ averaged 82 points per game (4th in the nation , less than 1 point per game behind leader Long Beach State), and advanced once again to the sweet 16 before losing in an epic double OT game with Connecticut.
What’s more is Roy has thrived in his All Star appearances, which are not exhibitions of half court execution. Roy has proven in his time with the Blazers to be quite comfortable filling the wing, running out ahead, or handling the ball in the middle of the break. So where does this blatantly erroneous perception come from?
The misperception comes from the fact that Roy’s game is built upon a foundation different from the other All Star caliber guards in the game. The elite players at the 2 guard position traditionally are freak of nature athletes, guys that win dunk contests and spend their early careers trying to dunk on everyone. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, a young Vince Carter, young MJ, Ginobilli, and even lesser caliber players such as Andre Igoudola, and Gerald Wallace, all violently attack the rim, jumping over and bowling through any defender who dares to enter their path. These guys could earn their pay checks almost exclusively off the open court jam. That does not describe Roy’s game. Nor does the other end of the 2 guard continuum in which players such as Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Reggie Miller, Ben Gordon, Steph Curry, and a host of other long range shooters base their game on occupying and stretching defenses with their catch and shoot mentality. Roy’s game is different. Frankly, it is not even in the middle of the continuum. It is unique in that Roy is the rare young player who dominates with craftiness, on having more game than his opponent, not relying on pure athleticism or a single go to skill. This is evident as everyone agrees Roy’s greatest attribute is his ability to finish at the rim, a skill eschewed by both the athletic dunkers and the long range bombers. Craftiness takes patience and awareness, not the single-minded self assuredness in ones athletic dominance or outside touch. Roy is patient and takes what the defense give him rather than trying to force the ball down the other teams throat, or jacking up catch and shoot threes. Therefore Roy appears to “pace” himself and “thrive in half court setting.”
However, Roy does have an NBA body, at 6’6” and 216.
He has NBA Range as exhibited here:
He also can attack the rim with authority when needed.
It’s no joke when Kobe Bryant talks up what a highly skilled and complete player Roy is. Roy provides the Blazer’s with a closer, a guy who can create a shot when it is most crucial. This is a necessary component for any team hoping to win a playoff series.
Now remember that Roy’s best basketball skill is finishing at the rim, but that does not mean he has to be the one to get the ball there. Granted he is pretty darn good at driving the ball, but there are any number of ways team basketball can get a player as good as Roy the basketball in position to score; curl screens back door cuts, pick and rolls, out in transition, short corner baseline against the zone, etc.
One supposed evidence that Roy slows the Blazers down was his difficulty playing with Andre Miller early last season. Miller was expected to come in and push the ball up and down the court. That didn’t happen because miller was trying to prove his worth to the team; to earn his starting spot, justify his signing with team, etc, and he and Roy didn’t develop any chemistry. Consequently Roy found himself waiting for Miller to create and Miller didn’t know how Roy wanted to get the ball. Add to this the Blazer’s commitment to playing proper position defense which does not lend its self to running out in transition and the Blazers were a slow half court team. Oh there was one more mitigating factor early last season that contributed to the notion of a Slow-Roy Blazers. The intentional force-feeding of the ball to Greg Oden before he broke his knee-cap.