Brandon Roy's injury woes this past season have been well-documented, and much speculation has been given to his future with the Blazers and in the league. Though he may never return to the franchise player that he was just a few years ago, that doesn't mean he can't still be a key piece for Portland moving forward.
Given the severity of Roy's knee injuries, it's clear he won't be the same slashing two-guard he was in the past, but that doesn't mean his days as a productive player are done. Roy proved this postseason that he can still rise to the occasion and make a huge impact on a game when he's called upon.
Brandon Roy's undoubtedly a scorer first, but he's not a one-dimensional player, and if he wants to be able to keep contributing to the Blazers on a regular basis (I doubt he can pull out a Game 4 nightly, but you never know), he must elevate the other elements of his game besides scoring, something he is fully capable of doing.
While I'm no expert, I've come up with a few ideas that I think could keep Brandon Roy in a Blazers jersey and contributing for years to come...
I'm putting this first because it isn't technically a way he can adjust his game, but given Grover's track record, I think it's something that could be hugely beneficial for Roy in the long run.
When the Boston Celtics' Jermaine O'Neal went out with a serious knee injury last season, it seemed that there was no way he would come back and contribute, but after arthroscopic knee surgery, he spent some time in Chicago working with Tim Grover at Attack Athletics and was able to return for the last few games of the year and the postseason as the Celtics' starting center.
He played consistent minutes and was able to rebound, block shots and even score the ball, though he isn't the player that he was on the Pacers he seems to finally be healthy, and Grover was a huge part of that.
Grover has also helped former superstars Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady rehab serious injuries. Though Roy's injuries are more serious than those suffered by O'Neal, Arenas and McGrady, that doesn't mean work with Grover can't help him find a little more stability and keep him productive or a few more seasons.
After he returned from surgery, Brandon Roy spent a substantial chunk of time essentially backing up Andre Miller at the point. He ran the team's halfcourt offense and called plays fairly well when the veteran Miller was on the bench but he could still work on his floor general abilities further to become even more of an asset to the team.
Roy's always been a solid passer, averaging nearly six assists in the 2007-2008 season and 4.7 for his career, but a lot of those were passes made where Roy drove into the paint and kicked the ball to the perimeter, which he'll probably be able to do less of given his injuries.
If Roy can improve his ability to call plays and find cutters like Nicolas Batum or Wes Matthews, his playmaking off the bench would be a major boost for the team. The Blazers struggled periodically in their halfcourt offense and often experienced scoring droughts because of it, though the team will likely try to get out on the break more with Felton as the point guard, having a player off the bench who can come off the bench and run the offense effectively would be a huge advantage for the Blazers against other teams.
Also, it would keep the ball moving with Roy on the floor, which became a bit of an issue last season. Though Roy's an unselfish player, often when he was in the game the Blazers' ball movement, one of their best qualities, would come to a halt and Roy would work in isolation. If he could become an even better passer, it would make him a tougher cover and a more effective player if he was having an off shooting night.
Obviously, this is something every player in the NBA could stand to improve, but Brandon Roy in particular could really benefit from taking some practice jumpers this summer. Roy finished last season, hitting 33 percent of his threes and only 40 percent of his shots from the field, a career low.
His knee injuries have robbed him of some of his explosiveness, and he's no longer going to be driving to the basket at will, so it would serve Roy and the Blazers well if he developed a stronger perimeter game. The Blazers were 21st in three point percentage last season with a team percentage of 34.5. This hurt the team throughout the year and against the Dallas Mavericks in the postseason because they couldn't consistently space the floor effectively.
Now that Raymond Felton, a 35.3 percent shooter from distance, is coming to town the Blazers, with Felton, Matthews, Batum, Patrick Mills and Roy could become one of the better three-point shooting teams in the league. If Roy could up his percentage from behind the arc to around 40 percent, he could really become an outside threat for Portland and make up for the loss of Rudy Fernandez (not that he was contributing much last season).
Developing a stronger outside shot will also serve his knees better, as he won't have to be slashing as much and absorbing contact at the basket. With an improved jumper, Roy could serve as the Blazers' Jason Terry, a spark off the bench who could play solid minutes and be one of the team's main offensive threats.
While this may not necessarily prolong his career, it would certainly make him all the more valuable to the Blazers going forward. Though Roy isn't an all offense, no defense shooting guard like Monta Ellis, he could certainly improve his defensive abilities. Though he may have lost some of his quickness due to his injuries, that alone doesn't mean his defensive abilities and potential have vanished.
Look at Grant Hill. He suffered a series of terrible injuries but was able to adjust his game, putting less of a focus on the offensive end and more on becoming the stalwart defender he is today. At 38, Hill is still one of the better defenders in the league, proving that acquired skills on that side of the court stay with a player even after their athleticism fades.
Roy has good hands and is an extremely intelligent player, so the potential is definitely there for him to become a real force on the defensive end. The team's backcourt already features Wes Matthews and Raymond Felton, who are scrappy, proven players on the defensive end as well as Nolan Smith, who was an excellent on-ball defender in college, and Nicolas Batum who can guard multiple positions but needs to add a little more muscle.
If Roy can become a better defender, then that gives Portland a wealth of guards to throw at their opponents to slow them down and gives Roy an opportunity to contribute in a way that won't cause as much wear on his already fragile knees.
Brandon Roy has stated that he wants to reclaim his role as the Blazers' starting shooting guard next season, and while he may be physically capable of it in the immediate future, it likely isn't the right move for him long term.
Given the bleak prognosis about Roy's future in the league (the consulting surgeon on his operation said he may have one or two quality years left), would it really make sense to play him for 30-plus minutes a night and ruin any chance of him recovering and being around long term?
Instead, look at last season's playoffs and the controversy over Roy's playing time and effectiveness in the first two games of Portland's series with Dallas. He played 26 minutes in the first game but went one-for-seven with three assists. After an emotional second game, where Roy played a mere eight minutes, he was understandably upset by his diminishing role on the team.
However, he came back for the final three games with a renewed sense of confidence and competitive fire. He provided a tremendous spark for Portland in Game 3 and had a playoff performance for the ages in Game 4, both while playing just 24 minutes in each game.
This is the role I believe would be best for Roy to accept, at least for now while there are still so many questions about his health and his future in the league. Having Roy come in and play around 20-25 minutes a game would not only be best for his health, but would also give the Blazers a huge advantage over their opponents in terms of depth and bench scoring.
Having a player of Roy's caliber come in and run the offense would give them a major advantage over other teams. Say Felton or Matthews were having an off night? Well, with Roy subbing in, the team would have the luxury of a starting caliber player to come in and stretch out an opposing defense and make plays for himself and his teammates.
Roy is a team first player and has said that he wants to do whatever to help the team win and, at least in my opinion, what's best for him and the team is for him to act as the team's sixth man.
Though it's definitely a step down for the three-time All-Star, adding a Sixth Man of the Year award to his list of accomplishments wouldn't look too shabby, and maybe having Roy comfortable and adjusted to coming off the bench would be enough to push Portland past the first round in 2012.