Blog Entry

Brandon Roy versus the world won't work

Posted on: October 14, 2010 5:36 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:49 pm
Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy has called for the ball, but is that a winning strategy?
Posted by Ben Golliver

Four games into the preseason, after a summer that didn’t see much roster turnover, the Portland Trail Blazers look and sound like a team still trying to find an identity, a team struggling to get on the same page.

Coach Nate McMillan has preached defense throughout training camp, and the troops, minus new addition Wesley Matthews, by and large haven’t responded. After holding a short-handed Los Angeles Clippers team (no Eric Gordon, no Baron Davis) to 86 points in their preseason opener, the Blazers have gotten clocked by division rivals Utah and Denver in three consecutive games. Add it up, and the slow-down, injury-depleted Blazers, are giving up 101 points per game during the preseason.

Throughout his young career, whenever Portland has hit a tough patch, all star guard Brandon Roy has responded by placing more responsibility on his own shoulders and, by extension, calling for more touches. After a flat performance on Monday night and a day off to think about things, Roy told reporters Wednesday that the motion offense the Blazers have been running during the preseason was going to give way to Portland’s usual isolation-heavy sets in the near future.  Along with that change was Roy’s desire to initiate more offense himself and he made that fact clear, declaring, “I want the basketball a lot more.”  Roy already sees a lot of touches, and Portland gives him the keys to the car down the stretch, so this comment earned Roy a fair bit of criticism in Portland over the last 24 hours.

Last year, Roy was 16th in the NBA in usage rate, trailing fellow guards Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Richard Hamilton, Monta Ellis, Russell Westbrook, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings. Surveying the names on that list, you get a better idea of where Roy is coming from. If you go back two seasons, Roy was 11th in the NBA in usage rate, and the only guards ahead of him were Wade, Bryant, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Will Bynum and Devin Harris.

So while going from 11th to 16th in the league seems like a modest drop, it’s one that Roy himself has felt mostly because of the quality of those touches. Indeed, he made specific reference yesterday to returning to the team’s offensive style from 2008-2009, when the Blazers were near the top of the league’s offensive efficiency charts . So what needs to happen for that return to take place?

The most obvious variable here is point guard Andre Miller, who was signed as a free agent during the summer of 2009. While a lot has been made about Miller’s own need for the ball in his hands to be effective, a more critical factor is his inability to space the floor effectively when he plays alongside Roy. Miller has never been a three-point threat, and last year he attempted just 80 threes, hitting at a paltry 20% clip . This allowed opposing defenses to cheat off of him with Tiger Woods regularity, clogging the top of the key, Roy’s favorite spot on the floor, and closing down driving lanes. This, coupled with hamstring and knee issues, led to declines in clean looks, shooting percentage and overall offensive efficiency. It should come as no surprise that Roy might desire a return to the pre-Miller days, when a standstill shooter in Steve Blake made defenses pay.

How will this situation resolve? Last season, McMillan showed a willingness to experiment with fourth-quarter lineups that didn’t include Miller. Matthews’ defensive versatility – he can legitimately guard three positions – and his spot-up shooting make him an ideal late-game backcourt partner for Roy. Throw in Nicolas Batum, who is also a versatile perimeter defender and solid outside shooter, and the Blazers would have a big, long, athletic perimeter trio to help compensate for having an emergency room full of centers on their inactive list.

The spotlight is now shining on Miller to prove his worth to the Blazers once again. Trade rumors continue to surround him, as they seemingly have since he signed in Portland. Now in the final guaranteed year of his contract, Miller is one of the few Blazers that would seem to have a greater external value than internal value. How much more would he mean to a young team needing leadership from a steady, reliable veteran point guard than to the Blazers, where he is, at best, a square peg fighting for room in a round hole that’s nearly entirely filled by Brandon Roy?

As for Roy's call for the ball, it is both admirable and short-sighted. In times of distress, and these Blazers know distress intimately, responsibility and accountability are gold qualities. But leaning heavily on Roy and isolating him on a regular basis hasn’t proven to be a winning strategy, in the playoffs or with regard to Roy’s health. The first-round exits and injuries have mounted up.

If we’ve learned anything in the NBA over the past six months, it’s the power of economies of roster scale. The more good players that play together well, the more likely it is that great play will result and the easier it is to succeed despite injuries. Ultimately, Roy is correct to look to himself for improvement first, but he must remember that he cannot dethrone the Lakers or Heat singlehandedly. No one can. To accomplish his goals for the team, which include playoff success and potentially more, Roy still needs to learn to trust someone. That someone doesn’t have to be Miller. But it needs to be someone.

Since: Aug 3, 2007
Posted on: October 14, 2010 9:26 pm

Brandon Roy versus the world won't work

My take is rather different:

Normally I blast Nate McMillan for the Blazers' offensive limitations. But now, I am going to blame . Roy's comments make me believe he may well be part of the Blazers problem.

Don't get me wrong, Brandon Roy is a terrific player, and a great character guy. He has been the face of a franchise as it turned away from having the worst reputation in the NBA. He deserved the max contract that he got (inasmuch as any athlete deserves the preposterous amounts of money they get paid).

I will focus my thoughts on three comments published in interviews yesterday:

He indicated that he doesn't like to play loose, but prefers set plays, organization and structure. He indicated that thus far the Blazers really haven't started to play in a style in which he is comfortable. By that, he meant more pick and rolls and isolation plays. Lastly, he states he wants the ball a lot more.

First of all, to a degree I respect the last comment. He is the team's superstar; he is supposed to want and demand the ball. However, his tendency to injury is partly a function of having the ball in his hands all the time, and relying on "his style" to score, which means he explodes toward the rim in a drive that typically finishes with the ball in the hole and Brandon on the floor or in the third row.  Additionally, putting the ball in his hands more means it will be in his teammates' hands less, which means preventing guys like Nic Batum from becoming more aggressive on the offensive end.

Second, much of the Blazers' offensive woes are a function of the limited range of set plays. Roy specifically stated he likes pick and roll plays (which the Blazers usually execute as pick and pop) and isolation plays. The problem with that is that is makes it easier for the opponents defense because they don't have to worry about 2 or 3 Blazers on any given trip down the floor.  HOw well did Cleveland do running isolation plays with arguably the best one-on-one player in the league, Lebron James? They won nothing. What happened to Roy's offseason pronouncement that he was going to work on, among other things, his ability to play without the ball in his hands? Is this just another version of "I'm more comfortable with ?"

Third, I don't necessarily have an issue with him preferring set plays. Even on the NBA level, if you play too loosely, you wind up with a bunch of guys going one on one, and not playing as a team. However, much of the Blazers' roster is filled by athletic guys whose skills may well be more suited to a looser, uptempo style. Nic Batum, , , , all come to mind as guys who probably would do much better running the floor, looking for a quick, explosive drive to the basket or an alley oop kind of play. (I envision Miller as the guy who initiates the play, not finishing it. He's not a dunker.)

What I get out of Roy's comments is that he wants the Blazers to conform to him rather than sublimate his own preferences for the good of the team. The style of offense he wants will not succeed in the post season, and will lead to more injuries to him.

I will still wait and see, and still am optimistic about this season. But for the first time, I am really starting to think that the cornerstone of this franchise, Brandon Roy, may be, in fact, part of the problem.

Since: Oct 1, 2010
Posted on: October 14, 2010 6:45 pm

Brandon Roy versus the world won't work

Brandon has a legit chance to be a star in this league. Now if portland can only stay healthy to see how good a team they have. For a season preview of the blazers(zimmerman picked them to finish 2nd) check out:


Since: Oct 14, 2010
Posted on: October 14, 2010 6:22 pm

Brandon Roy versus the world won't work

The last paragraph of your article will tell the tale of the season. His trust in his teammates will be key. I like the interaction I see with Brandon and Nicolas. It seems as though their relationship has grown each season. I think the friendship on the team that BRoy lost with the departure of Travis Outlaw will be tough to fill, but I will be interested to see how the chemistry between Nic and Roy continues to develop. Nic's skills go far beyond that of a defensive specialist; that's going to be a pair that can take the Blazers past the first round.

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