Now that Brandon Roy has gotten paid, the expectations on him and his Blazer teammates have never been higher. By signing that extension, the Blazers are entrusting him with their future – they fully expect him to be one of the NBA’s truly elite guards.
Clearly, B-Roy is nice. Is he Kobe though? Not yet. So what does he need to do to get there? Great Blazers blog Blazersedge outlines, in detail, the five things Brandon Roy needs to incorporate into his game in order for him to take the next step.
Here are BlazersEdge’s five points, with excerpted pieces of each. Go HERE for the full thing.
5. Easier Shots
Given [Andre] Miller’s proven abilities to push tempo and remain comfortable in the open court, Brandon should find himself in transition situations more than ever next season. Whether it’s finishing off lob passes or trailing the play and converting off mismatches, I expect (and hope) to see Roy’s tempo, not just the team’s tempo, pick up this season. Couple that with more open looks and less last-second deep jumpers thanks to Dre’s veteran savvy and it’s reasonable to expect an even more efficient offensive campaign from Roy.
4. Dictate 1st Quarters
Last season, dictating early offense relied too often on one factor: whether LaMarcus came out of the gate shooting well. If he was hot, everything ran very smoothly. If he was off on his first few jumpers, the Blazers often fell behind early, sometimes way behind, even at home. During the worst of these stretches, Brandon was a passive observer. While the Blazers demonstrated a remarkable ability to play from behind, the best players — Jordan, Kobe… the kind of player that Brandon has the potential to become — have the ability to get their teammates going early without sacrificing control over the game’s flow.
What I’d like to see next season is Brandon taking more initiative right out of the gate: rather than letting the game come to him, I’d like the game in his hands firmly from the outset. That doesn’t necessarily mean less looks for the bigs early in games; it does mean that I’d like to see fewer first quarter possessions when the ball is never in his hands.
3. Grow Greg Oden
While the media is obviously not privy to much of the two players’ relationship, it was rare to see much of a connection between them last season. During dozens of hours of practice, locker room sessions and the like, I struggle to remember a time when the two genuinely clicked. It goes without saying that Brandon carefully backed Greg when he was struggling and he has often spoken about how important of a player Greg will become for the team.
But Blazers fans should want to see Brandon proactively helping to make Greg’s potential a reality. Brandon has all the cachet he needs to make that happen: the long-term deal, the personality, the individual awards, the compassion. If anyone understands what Greg is going through and possesses the people skills, street smarts and street cred to connect with him, it’s Brandon Roy.
Whether it’s looking for Greg off the pick and roll, advising him how to better interact with the local media, or simply inviting him to dinner (it went a long way with LaMarcus, right?), Brandon holds the keys to helping Greg get comfortable this season.
2. Be Smarter With Arguing Calls
I get that referee manipulation is part of the modern NBA and that reputation goes a long way in determining who gets calls. I just wish Brandon’s influence upon the officials was subtle like his crossover rather than brutal like his dunks. There were multiple times last season when he was actively ignored by officials, his protests falling on deaf ears as the refs beat him back down the court as he stood near the baseline shaking his head or slowly pulling himself off the floor.
While Nate McMillan has encouraged Brandon to fight for calls, and fewer players in the league are better at yelling when slapped while attacking the paint, it’s hard to watch a player of his caliber remove himself from plays. Surrounded by impressionable, young players and referees who will only become more deferential to his rising star status, Brandon should recognize that getting back on defense proves a larger, better point than dragging his feet requesting a whistle.
1. Accept More Challenges on Defense
Despite all the buzzer beaters and the career-ending dunk on Poor Samb, I’m not sure there was a play during 2008-2009 that gave me a clearer look at the potential of Brandon Roy than the sequence in the Rose Garden the previous season when he strapped up Joe Johnson during the final 90 seconds of a close game. Frustrating Johnson with both quick feet and chest-to-chest physical defense, Roy showed he has the physical tools to be an elite on-ball defender against the league’s best perimeter players. It was, to many observers, a breathtaking performance.
Because of the load he carried last year on offense, we didn’t see this effort repeated on a nightly basis in 2008-2009. The addition of the defensively-gifted and versatile Nic Batum helped take the defensive pressure off Brandon but one wonders if things went a bit too far that direction. Although Brandon was often able to rest on defense, many possessions found him hiding on the weakside, a relative non-factor. Indeed, if Brandon excelled on the defensive end last season, it was off the ball, anticipating passes or cuts and then using his high basketball intelligence to create turnovers or force difficult shots.
But for a player of Roy’s skillset, more should be expected. The degree to which players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen influenced the game on the offensive end was matched only by the degree to which they dictated terms defensively as well. Rule changes make it difficult for Brandon to be as physical as those two often were but they don’t prevent him from telling his teammates and coaching staff that he wants the responsibility of guarding the other team’s best player, particularly in the fourth quarter. We saw that at times last year and I’d like to see that become a given in big games.
The emotional boost his teammates received from Roy’s dominance of Johnson was tangible almost an hour after the game; that boost and the bond it creates is capable of turning quality teams into NBA champions.
Do you agree? How else can Brandon Roy take his game to the next level?