I like Brandon Roy a lot. As a Blazer fan, how can you not? He fits the culture perfectly. He's skilled beyond measure. ROY and 2-time all star in 3 years. And now, he commands our loyalty if, for no other reason, he's locked up for a while with a big contract.
But I've sometimes felt a vague disquiet watching him play. And I see that diquiet on the BEdge at times.
- Roy has to have the ball in his hands
- Roy talks to the officials about a no-call instead of getting back on defense
- Roy walks the ball up the court
- Roy doesn't run the fast break
- Roy doesn't play off the ball well
- Roy can't play with Miller (people don't say that much any more)
- Roy can't play with Rudy
- Roy can't play with Sergio
- Roy can't play defense; Roy doesn't try on defense
- Roy plays too much one on one
I don't know how much of this is true. But I started to think about how to quantify what Roy means to a team. Do people want to play with Roy? Is a good teammate? When I hear people talk about the "right way" to play basketball--something McMillan says all the time--I think of team basketball, lots of passing, lots of running, lots of defense. The "right way" doesn't really describe Roy for at least some of the time.
Is it heresy? Can anyone even say these things without getting stoned?
So I went through the play-by-play of the games this season. I looked at all the points Roy scored (excluding free throws) that were assisted by another player or created on his own. One of the knocks is that Roy works all by himself in isolation in this 1-4 offense (a term I never heard of before Roy). How many of Roy's points are "in the flow" versus self-created? (Caveats: I don't know if free throws were "assisted" or not, nor are missed shots the result of one-on-one play or not... my sense is that a great deal of the free throws were the result of one-on-one action--a significant part of Roy's scoring.)
It turns out that 53.4% of Roy's points have been "unassisted." More than half. But is that too much? It turns out that of the 13 games played this far in the season, Roy has scored over half his points "unassisted" in five of those games:
- 9 to 5 (Denver)
- 15 to 4 (San Antonio)
- 8 to 3 (New Orleans)
- 16 to 3 (Charlotte)
- 8 to 7 (Altanta)
Does this promote stagnant offense? Is this appropriate for your superstar? I'll be frank: I was surprised that it was only five games. I thought it would be more. Perhaps I have inhuman expectations of Roy.
The other thing I took a look at was the type of assists that Roy dished out. If Roy is passing for layups and dunks, why that's a fun thing and it's a joy to play with a teammate who provides you with easy buckets. On the other hand, assists that lead to jump shots--well, that's a different story. It means the receipient of the pass is generally standing around waiting for something to happen and perhaps not involved in the offense (I'm thinking of complaints from Batum and Rudy along with the pretty weak expectations of offense from Blake and Webster: just make 3s). Moreover, a pass for a wide-open jumper carries a different kind of pressure. The sort of pressure that says: "Don't let me down... you'd better make this!!" Maybe not a "flaming bag" pass but certainly a pass that carries the weight of expectations with it.
It turns out that 37.8% of Roy's assists have been for easy buckets (almost exclusively to "bigs") with the majority going for pressure-packed jump shots (often 3s). Of the 13 games, 7 of them featured more perimeter assists than "paint assists."
- 4 to 1 (Houston)
- 5 to 0 (OK City)
- 4 to 2 (Atlanta)
- 5 to 2 (Memphis)
- 4 to 1 (Minnesota)
- 5 to 0 (Charlotte)
- 3 to 2 (Detroit)
So it's awesome that Portland's mega-star guard actually passes the ball as much as he does to generate these assists. But, I do have this vague disquiet about the style of assist.
I watched Roy pretty closely in the Detroit game as I was letting these matters percolate in my head. What I saw Roy do, I'm not sure I ever noticed before. Maybe he was tired. He played a lot of minutes. But he took plays off. Just like Randy Moss took plays off in Minnesota, Roy would camp out at the 3 literally with hands on hips not even remotely involved in the offense. Again, do I have inhuman expectations in that I expect him to set an off-screen or move a bit or perhaps look around for a long offensive rebound? I do know that this isn't what Rudy or Bayless do when they're on the floor. But maybe Roy doesn't have to.
In summary, I think I'm looking for Roy's game to continue to evolve. I guess I'm saying that--all star though he is--if doesn't develop further I don't think he's worth the contract. I don't think that he can legitimately say that he's making his teammates better. He is most certainly making the winning percentage better... but I don't think the individual games of Rudy, LMA, Batum, Webster or any of these other guys is necessarily better when he's on the floor. I want to see him catch a pass from someone else on the move. I want him to create opportunities for other players that don't involve a perimeter jumper. And most of all, I want to see some off ball effort.
Or maybe he needs to be the PG after all? Maybe my "disquiet" is completely unwarranted in the face of a fine start to a season and games where Portland has really dominated teams for majority portions of games.
Is anyone else disquieted?