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Brandon Roy--What's the Point?

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It’s finally time for Blazersedge to officially take up the whispers and rumors we’ve been hearing for the past year or so about Brandon Roy and the potential for him to eventually play point guard.  We’re going to make this short and sweet:  I don’t see it happening.

This doesn’t have a lot to do with Brandon’s capabilities.  He’s a fantastic all-around player and I have no doubt that if he put his mind to it he could man the point guard spot adequately.  I don’t want to slight him in the least.

But the fact remains, that’s not his natural position.  When you take your team leader--the heart and soul of your squad, the guy other teams design their game plans around--and stick him in a position not his own you end up weakening not only him, but the team as a whole.

Michael Jordan was capable of playing point guard.  He did it for a season.  Darned if he didn’t average 8 assists too.  Kobe Bryant could play point guard if he wanted.  LeBron James could probably do a credible job as well.  Jordan didn’t stick in that position and the others wouldn’t want to try it.  Why?  First because they’re best suited to play the way they already do.  Second because point guard is such a demanding position, not only in terms of the skills and mental gymnastics that go into playing it but in terms of outlook and responsibility as well.  It’s on your shoulders to keep your teammates happy.  You have to get the ball to them in scoring position.  In some ways it’s the difference between having a job in the field and having a job behind a desk coordinating the guys in the field.  Just because you excel at the former doesn’t mean you’d like doing the latter, even if you have the gifts to do it well.

Does Brandon want to be the guy bringing the ball up the floor all the time, being hounded by 6’3” lightning bolts?  Does Brandon want to look for three other people’s shots first before his own on a consistent basis?  Does Brandon want to chase those lightning-quick players all over the floor defensively, including around a dozen pick-and-rolls?  Most importantly is the team better off having Brandon do these things?  I’m thinking there’s a fair bit of “no” to all of these answers.  It’s easy to imagine his game suffering under these conditions.

Besides that, there would still be a fair bit of learning curve to Brandon becoming a full-time point guard.  Right now he’s a shooting guard with devastating mobility which allows him to occasionally make inspired passes, taking full advantage of his ability to do so.  But frankly there’s a big difference between that and a guy who makes passes for a living.  It’s like being a second baseman who hits a surprising number of home runs.  That’s great, but do those home runs mean he’d make a good DH or do you want a true monster there?  You’ve got a young guy flying high as an All-Star at his position.  Why set him back another year or two by switching him around, especially when nearly every other major player you have is still going through growth patterns of their own?

The only solid arguments I can see for Roy at the point right now are:

1.  We don’t really have a long-term point guard we’re comfortable with.  And…

2.  It would get Rudy Fernandez more playing time.

As far as the first argument, if you don’t have a point guard you’re comfortable with then go out and get one!  That’s what all of that cap space is for.  Part of the problem is that the point guards we have are inexperienced, incomplete, or not naturally suited for the position.  Throwing Roy over there runs the risk of adding one more player who fits that description exactly.

As for the second argument, nobody knows what Rudy can or will do in this league yet.  I respect his potential but we don’t even know if Rudy and Roy together would make a viable combination.  We don’t know if Rudy will earn minutes beyond backing up Brandon and the occasional three-guard set.  And however you feel about Rudy that doesn’t change the fact that Roy is The Man on this team.  Right now he’s the absolute #1 guy and only Greg Oden has a chance to unseat him.  You do not monkey with your #1 guy in order to work in somebody lower…at least until that lower guy makes contributions so meaningful that you begin to discuss him in the same breath as your #1.  At that point maybe you ask whether a marginal lessening of Brandon’s game might be made up for by a steady diet of Rudy’s greatness.  But we’re a long ways from that kind of decision…and frankly it’s more likely that if something like that happened one or the other would be traded instead of juggled around.  (See also:  Jim Paxson and Clyde Drexler, Mark Price and Terrell Brandon.)

In the end there are too many players, positions, and roles unsettled on this young team to be taking your surest thing and throwing it into doubt.  Roy is great initiating the offense once the ball has been brought up, but he really needs to play with a true point guard to take the pressure off.  I don’t see a Brandon Point Guard experiment in our near future and I suspect by the time we get to the far future we’ll be winning too much anyway to even consider it.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)