Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, we say goodbye to yesterday's look at LaMarcus Aldridge's season and move on to Brandon Roy. This isn't the first time "ridiculous" has been used in conjunction with Roy, but usually it's in the awestruck sense, as in "That 24 points in 14 minutes was ridiculous! And did you see that buzzer-beater he won the game with? It was ridiculous! Can you believe the Celtics traded away the rights to this guy for Randy Foye? That was ridiculous!" Yeah...this ain't that kind of ridiculous. Here's a table of significant and/or interesting stats comparing Roy's season this year to the one prior. It's not for the weak of heart.
Click through for analysis of the numbers (plus some not listed here), some philosophical ways to look at the Brandon Roy Question, and a look at Roy's future with the team.
The first number we need to look at is Games Played: 47. Anything that happened more than 10 seconds ago in the sports world gets forgotten, even if the situation is ongoing. In the face of the late-season comeback, the Game 4 heroics, the few glittering moments when Brandon seemed like Brandon and the host of moments where he didn't, it's easy to forget that the #1 most important story surrounding Roy in 2010-11 was injury. He started the season hobbling. He played until it was apparent to everyone that shutting down and eventually double knee surgery were the only recourses. Then he came back limping, struggled to find his bearing, confidence, and shot, and exited the season just as broken as he entered it, perhaps for slightly different reasons. 47 games does not a season make. 47 games means something is wrong. That something never got wholly better. Roy's numbers have to be viewed in that light. It's not like he forgot how to play basketball. It's not like he's choosing this. He's hurt. He's recovering. That doesn't earn him hankie-level sympathy and it doesn't change the win total but it does put the analysis of his numbers in perspective.
You'll struggle to find anything positive in Brandon's 2010-11 numbers. His offense fell off a cliff, bounced into a crater, and then went spelunking. Surprisingly his field goals attempted per minute didn't fall precipitously. He lofted one less shot per 36 than he did a season before, two less than his All-NBA year two seasons ago. The problems were two. His shooting percentage dug a hole and buried itself, dropping from 47.3% to 40.0%. Meanwhile his free throw attempts per minute dropped 42%. Neither shot nor hit more three-pointers, meaning his shooting production went into free fall with no net to cushion the blow. This is wrapped up in his True Shooting Percentage near the end of the table. TS% takes into account the value of three-pointers and free throws in addition to regular twos. Dropping to 49.1% from 56.8%--losing 7.7 percentage points--is about as bad as the news can get. That's not like you're missing a shot or two, it's like you're missing an arm or two...or in this case, I suppose, knees.
Brandon's shot selection reflects his demise. In 2008-09 66% of his attempts were jumpers to 34% close shots and the effective field goal percentage on those jumpers was 46.5%. In 2009-10, when Brandon was also dealing with injuries, 74% of his attempts were jumpers but he still had a loophole as the effective field goal percentage on those jumpers was still 46.0%. This year 81% of his attempts came on the perimeter and the effective field goal percentage was just 40%. His formerly semi-diverse repertoire was reduced to a single note and it was off-key: from Beverly Sills to Britney Spears in a season and no auto-tuner in sight.
The story marches on: points per game down 9.3, points per 36 minutes down 5.1, PER down from a star-level 21.5 to a below-average 13.9. No wonder people forgot about the old Brandon outside of those brief moments of glory. He was nowhere to be found.
Nor does Roy's game provide much recourse when his offense dips. He played point guard in reserve during multiple games but his assists fell. His turnovers fell as well, evening out the venture, but it's not like his passing, ball-handling, and play-making lifted him above average again. His defense has never been stellar. It continued in the same vein. At times opponent ran plays at him which seldom happened when he was healthy. He could not respond, let alone distinguish himself. Brandon is not a one-dimensional player. He doesn't have to score 20 to justify his court time on a normal night. But he does have to score 20 in order to be a star. Otherwise he's occupying space, not losing you games but not winning them either.
The one redeeming line in the table is Net Points Per 100 Possessions, again a measure of how much both teams scored when a player was on the court versus on the bench. While +1.6 is not the +4.1 he registered last year, let alone the +9.8 he posted two years ago, it is still a plus. The team mostly evened out defensively whether Roy was on the floor or not and scored a point and a half more per 100 possessions when he played. It's not like he's killing the team. It's just that we're used to him killing the opponent and it's a shock to have to describe him in terms of "not losing games". Then again, even that assessment awaits a comparison to the people who could be replacing him in the lineup.
The huge question facing Brandon Roy (and by association, the Blazers) from this point forward is health. We know who he is: an All-NBA level, 26 year old shooting guard hovering above 56 year old knees. Will rest, rehab, or voodoo allow those knees to function acceptably? If not, Roy's role is inevitably going to be reduced, status or no status, contract or no contract. Somebody else, either on the roster currently or yet to be acquired, is going to eat into his 28 minutes. That will cause damage to this team beyond the numbers. Roy has never played any role besides starting guard, #1 option, franchise savior. His game has been predicated on mystique and moxie, confidence and cockiness, plus a little bit of lateral movement wizardry and deception. The knees have diminished the lateral movement which also lessens the deception potential. Take away the mystique and confidence and what's left, even in a reserve role? Over time Roy might adjust and find a second life in Grant Hill fashion, but that's liable to be a long time coming and only transpire after every alternative has been exhausted. The exhausting of those alternatives will take a toll on him and on his teammates as they struggle to adjust to the inevitable false starts and false hopes. The easiest, best role is for Brandon to resume the primary position on this team, even if it's in name only and everybody understands that. If he can give 85-90% of what he used to (plus those occasiona throwback performances) everybody in Blazer Nation including the guys in uniform will be able to wink, nod, and put him on the pedestal, quietly making up the difference behind the scenes. That would require few adjustments and give a world of benefit. But if Roy's health won't permit 85%, if he's down to the 50% he's currently giving, the rotation has to be overhauled.
Either way it'll be up to Brandon to take the lead if he's going to grab it back.. He's going to return in the fall gunning for that starting spot. That's a good thing for him and the Blazers. It'll show everything he has to give. He's going to have to decide that knees aren't going to stop him. He's going to have to risk cutting on them, endure pain, and just play ball. If that doesn't work he's going to have to limp into the sunset of 15 minutes per game in reserve and find a comfort level there that doesn't disrupt the locker room or rotation. Either of those possibilities will test his will and his mental game. In the end that may be the most crucial test: not what hand Roy has been dealt, but how he's able to play the cards. It's all-in or fold. Whichever happens, we're going to see the real Brandon Roy that's been lurking beneath the All-Star facade. For the Blazers' sake, let's hope the heretofore-excellent assessments of his character and mental game have been accurate. Anything can be overcome if your attitude is right and your focus is on the greater good. It's just hard to have your attitude and focus right when everything you've depended on is thrown into question and your world is falling apart. That sentence applies to Roy and the team in the face of Roy's demise. Everyone will need to handle it well for the franchise to prosper.
If the Blazers could move Brandon Roy I believe they'd consider it but I don't believe there's a chance of doing so without also dumping a ton of young talent alongside to make someone eat his now-horrible-looking contract. Miracles aside, for the foreseeable future he'll be a Blazer. And if you're hoping for a miracle, why not hope for his knees to heal instead?
Season Grade: D
Stock Market Recommendation: Damaged Stock...Hold But it's the same "hold" as your recent Blockbuster Video shares. You can't find anyone to buy them. You might be about to lose your shirt here but there's no alternative. You won't make anything dumping them so you might as well ride it out.
Share your Roy-related thoughts and theories below.