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Breaking Down What to Expect from Brandon Roy's Return to the NBA

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Breaking Down What to Expect from Brandon Roy's Return to the NBA
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Retirement, schmetirement. Brandon Roy is back in the NBA, this time with the team that originally called his name on draft day in 2006—the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The three-time All-Star signed a two-year, $10.4 million deal to take his talents to the Twin Cities, where he'll be called upon to fill (in part) a gaping hole at shooting guard, a position with which the T-Wolves have struggled of late.

A hole that grew more (or less?) problematic with the departures of Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington this summer.

That being said, the Wolves can't, shouldn't and probably won't expect Roy to play consistently at the level he enjoyed prior to his seemingly forced hiatus, much less at that which he achieved before his knees went under the knife on six separate occasions.

It's a miracle enough that Roy can still play at all after years of neglect under the auspices of a Portland Trail Blazers training staff that has a dubious history of unintentionally derailing NBA careers. Roy's employment of the "Kobe System" (platelet-rich plasma therapy, not chats with Richard Branson and Tony Robbins) will hopefully return the 28-year-old guard to some semblance of his former self on the court, though more as a role player and less as a star on whose shoulders ride the fortunes of a franchise.  

Ideally, Wolves head coach Rick Adelman won't call upon Roy to play 30 minutes as a starter in Minny's backcourt, at least not from the get-go. Rather, Roy would have the opportunity to play, say, 20-to-25 minutes per game as the team's sixth-man supreme, with much of that time spent on the floor during high-leverage situations.

Surely, the Wolves would love to slot in a guy capable of doing this as their not-so-secret weapon at the end of games:

He'd be a boon to a second unit that's a bit thin overall but does include some promising talent in spots, particularly with Derrick Williams at power forward.

Unfortunately—and strange that it should be unfortunate—Roy may have to step in as the starting shooting guard in Minnesota in training camp. At present, the Wolves' stock of 2-guards includes 2011 second-round pick Malcolm Lee, Russian import Alexey Shved (who will need some time to acclimate himself to the NBA, per Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press), and Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, both of whom are primarily points but can play the 2, albeit at a severe size deficit.

Of course, Ridnour and Barea will both be plenty busy at their natural position while Ricky Rubio recovers from a torn ACL. Team owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press that the star point guard will likely be out until December, thereby leaving no shortage of work to be done on the perimeter in the interim.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

All of which puts the focus back on Roy.

Willingly or otherwise, he may well be the key to Minnesota's hopes of cracking the Western Conference-playoff code and, in turn, keeping All-Star power forward Kevin Love happy.  Then again, Roy won't have to be the man in Minnesota. Love has already proved that he's the franchise's chief cornerstone and can shoulder the burden of being a marked man.

Chances are, Adelman will have the team operate from the inside out, at least until Rubio is fit to play. Love and Nikola Pekovic are a devastatingly physical and productive duo up front, and new signee Andrei Kirilenko should be brimming with confidence on the wing after dominating abroad with CSKA Moscow.

Such an emphasis would leave Roy—a 35.2-percent three-point shooter for his career—free to launch jumpers and slash into the paint on occasion from the perimeter.

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And, if Roy's body holds up and his game thrives, then—in due time—he could emerge as something more than just a cog in a bigger basketball machine and expand his role on the team accordingly.

For now, though, the Wolves would be wise to bring Roy along slowly. The Blazers may or may not have been somewhat misguided in forcing Roy to retire in his prime, but there's no doubting that his knees were in bad shape and might still be.

But, if Roy's healthy and capable of contributing to the cause in some meaningful capacity, then the Wolves could find themselves back in the postseason picture for the first time since Kevin Garnett led them to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.

 

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