This is part of an offseason series on various things of certain natures that each Blazer can work on during the summer to prepare for the 2010-2011 title push. This is strictly about on-court performance, so topics like trades and contracts are not discussed at length. Remember to click “Continue Reading” at the jump.
….And then there was Roy.
To this point, the Summer Reading series has been an analysis of what players need to do to help Portland crack open that championship window and start flying. We have run the gamut of players, from rookies to near senior citizens, guys looking to breakout to guys looking to stay off the trade market. Now we’ve reached The Maestro. This is Brandon Roy. For the past couple years he has been the Portland Trail Blazers. Whether you like it or not we only go as far as he can take us. This season, in the 65 games with him in the lineup Portland went 42-23, without him they were 8-9. Face facts, no Roy and we’re all talking about a lottery team this off-season.
The tricky part comes here: how exactly do you evaluate Roy’s 09-10 season? Do you call it disappointing because it wasn’t the ‘typical’ Brandon Roy season? (Yes I put that in quotations because I think fans are getting a little spoiled when they drop ‘typical’ about a superstar.) Or do you define it by Roy giving Blazer fans a goosebump-inducing, history-making effort in Game 4 against Phoenix? Last I checked 21-5-5 with 47% from the field and a 20+ PER is nice. I don’t think it was an ideal season for Roy, but then again this wasn’t anywhere near an ideal season for the Blazers as a whole. It’s fitting the superstar would be a bit off.
It’s tough to wrap his season in a tidy box because of some polarizing events that occurred. Whether it was his comeback in the playoffs, the hamstring injury or his openness about the early struggles with Andre Miller there were more events that opened up discussions that had not before been associated with Roy.
For some reason during the 09-10 season, I felt there was more chirping about Brandon than I had ever heard during his entire career. The words I heard tossed around were ‘soft’ and ‘crybaby’, stemming from his hamstring issues, comments he made early in the season about struggling to play with Andre Miller and his constant yelling when driving to the hoop. I hope his returning in the playoffs erases any sort of ‘soft’ label. I think it’s funny after all the actual crybabies that have been in and around this franchise, that people would give Roy that label. And I’m not sure how people could complain about having one of the top shooting guards in the game on their team.
As easy as it is to get caught up in all that, it’s just as easy to forget that Roy was playing some unbelievable basketball during December and January prior to his hamstring injury. He had turned into the one constant on a team that was anything but. There’s a reason his PER is up there with Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant. There’s a reason he’s established himself as one of the best players in the league. The respect is there, not only with his earning an All-Star spot despite only playing in 40 or so games but his jersey ranked 13th in sales for the year.
The things he needs to work on are less on court and more big picture type ideas. While he has made the leap into one of the top players in the NBA, that does not mean he can’t get any better.
- Play Better With Others: Early in the season, Nate McMillan was trying to find ways to make Brandon Roy comfortable…almost at the expense of others. We all know about the rough road Miller and Roy had on the court at first. Think back to early in the season, when Portland had Oden/LMA/Roy as the Big 3…how many times did all of them play well? As the team grows together and the championship window opens, others roles should be growing and Roy’s should be diminishing. Not his importance, but he should be getting more help. The question is, is he ready to take it? Is he ready to put his trust in everyone else. There are times when Roy doesn’t have the ball when it just seems like Portland is waiting to get it to him, or waiting for him to take over. There needs to be more fluidity involved in the offense. Speaking of that…
- Smoother Offensive Transitions: Say what you want about the Roy-iso offense, but it seems like it’s not going anywhere soon. This isn’t really the platform to go off on the pros/cons of it, but there are ways to make it more effective. When the Blazers and Roy go into iso-motion, Roy has to make sure to involve the rest of the squad so that they all don’t go into ‘Halt’ mode. The rest of the team needs to feel like an active part, knowing he’s creating something for them. The Blazers tend to stagnate and stand around and it can look like Mike Brown’s “offense”. Notice how when Kobe iso’s and the Lakers are operating at their peak, people are cutting and/or taking attention of the defense, not allowing it to sit and clog the lanes.
- Improve Defensively: When people look at Roy’s game they automatically point to him needing to improve his team defense. According to Synergy Sports, Roy only gave up .66 points per isolation possession. Impressive when you consider some of the match-ups he faced on the year. Fundamentally, Roy needs to work on improving his second and third rotations and also improving his close-outs. Both will help the team as a whole and will help big men like Camby and Oden stay out of trouble. Roy has to find a way to not overwork himself when a teammate has an offensive advantage without having that reduced offensive effort cause him to hiding on defense. Think of how Kobe finds that balance in his best games.
- Shot: This probably fits into the ‘couldn’t hurt’ category. An improved jumper wouldn’t hurt at all. For one, we’ve all seen what happens when Roy’s jumper is on…he’s an unbelievably tough cover. Think back to moments this year where Roy had good looks that went in and out. According to Synergy Sports, Roy only converted 38% of his ‘Spot-Up’ field goal attempts. If we’re talking about the team growing, the ability for Roy to hit spot-up jumpers will help — and he was better the year before, so he’ll probably improve his percentages again. That way it will give LaMarcus, Oden and Miller more room to operate without Roy seeming like a decoy.
- Accountability/Leadership: Roy deserves a pat on the back for stepping into the leadership role willingly and doing an excellent job. However he needs to take it to the next level. As we stated before, Portland needs to start becoming more accountable. And while Roy is the unquestioned leader, at times it feels as if he is the leader moreso because there is no other option. He’s grown leaps and bounds and done an amazing job don’t get me wrong, but he can do more. For example, he needs to provide more defensive leadership. Think how tough it would be as a player to follow a leader who is expecting you to do things he doesn’t do enough of. You have to demand defensive excellence. Guys like Kobe, KG, don’t have these issues.
Who do we recommend for Roy’s summer reading? It comes down to Roy either paying attention to the greats who have played this game or his peers who have made the leap before. The first guy that jumped out to us was 2008 Paul Pierce, when he completely flipped the switch to ‘on’ and re-invented his entire legacy. The Celtics needed both his offense and defense in major ways. Portland needs Roy on both ends of the court in a similar manner, maybe even more. Defensive leadership and overall balance is what Roy needs to achieve, something that Pierce finally found during that season. The transition threes on the secondary break wouldn’t hurt. Coup sees the similarities in their styles, both not fast but clever with hesitations and overall herkyjerkyness. I agree, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Roy inherit a bit of Pierce’s nastiness and swagger. I’ll go without the wheelchairs, though for that matter, if that “whiny” label continues with Roy, it’s worth mentioning that all kinds of people like to call Pierce soft as well, but the guy plays through a myriad of injuries every year, often to his own detriment. Sound familiar?
And just for a bonus, the NBA commercial featuring Pierce saying “…and we never give up” over and over. I hope it gets stuck in your heads.