One of the things I'm noticing lately is that the more the off-season progresses the bigger the legend of Brandon Roy is getting. Extra buzz surrounding the top rookie prospect is not unusual, but the excitement over B-Roy is starting to overflow the banks. ESPN.com's depth chart has him listed as the starting shooting guard (and Martell third at that position and presumably 11th on the roster). Rookie of the Year is a firm possibility in most people's minds. The faithful are wondering aloud whether he's just going to be very good or a true savior.
Look, I went to Vegas and saw Brandon play. I was favorably impressed. I also watched him operate with the fans and talked to him a little. I was even more favorably impressed. I am really glad he's on the team and the last thing I want to do is play Debbie Downer and spoil the party. (Cue curled lips and "wah-wah-wah" here.) But folks, I'm going to bring up the R-word. Despite his maturity, despite his ability to change directions on a dime, despite having good ball-handling skills for a taller guard, he's...well...you know...a first year player. You can read back in the summer league section of the BlazerThoughts archives for all the glowing praise, but that doesn't change the fact that right now our prize pupil is just like a great, big bowl of cookie dough. It looks delicious, but it needs a little time in the oven yet. Eating a little now is fine, but if you scarf the whole thing raw you're going to end up with a tummy ache.
Obviously it's going to take some time for Brandon to learn the system and the game. Everybody knows that. But he also has to get bigger and stronger in order to be effective in it. He's going to have similar obstacles to overcome as Jarrett Jack. At the point quick, annoying guards are going to mess with his dribble and his head all day. He's never seen the type of bodies and athleticism that he's going to face on a daily basis at the shooting guard position. His body is going to take an awful pounding no matter where he plays. He's going to need to develop more range on his shot because the defensive scheme against the Blazers will still be to pack it in on everybody besides Martell. When he tries to drive he's either going to get smothered by two defenders or hacked to the ground by a 300-pound behemoth with oak trees for arms. Developing bulk, strength, and skill is a long process and some of that is going to have to happen before he can truly learn the ins and outs of his position (or positions). In reality I question whether he'll see extended minutes at the point this year because it's such a hard position to learn and the potential for frustration and loss of confidence is high. And not playing point would certainly eat into his minutes and his potential statistical production. But I don't see why that should be a huge measure of his first year growth anyway.
It's not going to bother me if Roy doesn't end the year in Rookie of the Year contention. How many great players didn't make that much of a statistical impact in their first season or two? Kobe didn't. Nowitzki didn't. McGrady didn't. Damon Stoudamire did but his team still lost 75% of their games and his stellar trajectory turned out to be more of a flatline. Maybe Brandon IS the next Paul Pierce or Dwyane Wade, but he doesn't have to be in order to turn out superb. Year 1 is mostly for learning and carrying vets' luggage. Years 2-4 are for showing what you're made of.
I've listed our current roster below. Beside each name is the number of points per game I would consider a really good season for that player, taking into account role, experience, ability, and potential playing time because of depth. Keep in mind that rookies start out the year with a ton of 4-6 minute stints which count as full games for "per game" purposes so it's really hard for them to average big numbers. Also remember there's no way everybody could reach these averages simultaneously. Some players getting minutes and shot attempts will take away from others. My contention is simply if you look at an individual's name at the end of the season and they have this number in their scoring column, you should say, "Well done!" If you wouldn't say that, maybe your expectations are a shade too high. This shows about where I expect Brandon will be in the team's statistical hierarchy. (I've also appended other pat-on-the-back qualifications for fun.)
Jarrett Jack--14 (add 5+ assists)
Brandon Roy--10 (add fewer than 2.5 turnovers)
Martell Webster--13 (add shooting .360+ from the arc)
Darius Miles--18 (add no trouble)
Travis Outlaw--12 (add 20+ minutes per game)
Zach Randolph--20 (add 10 rebounds)
Joel Przybilla--9 (add 10 rebounds)
Jamaal Magloire--12 (add 9 rebounds)
LaMarcus Aldridge--8 (add fewer than 4 fouls per game)
What are your expectations of B-Roy or other individual players? Higher? Lower? Comment below or by e-mail.