Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…
BRANDON ROY, Portland Trail Blazers
It’s so easy to take for granted. Not just health. Good health. The ability to run for 48 minutes, 94 feet at a time, without aggravating pain. The luxury of waking up the next morning without your knees, ankles and feet berating you for those decisions.
But basketball can be cruel. Ask Penny Hardaway and Yao Ming and Grant Hill. Or just ask Brandon Roy.
This much is as close to fact as one man’s opinion can get: When healthy, Brandon Roy is a Top-15 player in the NBA and a Top-10 go-to performer in crunch time. Last season he ranked 10th in the League in “clutch time” scoring, and only nine percent of his clutch buckets were assisted. (Kobe Bryant, by comparison, was assisted on 18 percent of his clutch makes.) Roy can dominate fourth quarters, consistently get buckets over the course of a game, or forget one bad shooting night in order to hit the most important shot of the night.
But B-Roy isn’t healthy. And he probably never will be, at least not enough to consistently achieve the heights of the game that his talent allows. Over the weekend, Roy, 26, left Portland’s game in New Orleans with his left knee on fire, a knee which we’ve since learned has no cartilage inside and has been drained a couple of times already this season. At the moment no one is sure how much (if any) time Roy will have to sit out, but the lack of quick-fixes in this case aren’t as unsettling as the long-term implications.
How does this happen? It’s 2010 for Canton’s sake. Between our medical technology, knowledge of the human body, performance-enhancing products, and Dr. James Andrews, we could bring Bonnie and Clyde back from the brink. We should be able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, and watch him regain All-Pro form. Even Grant Hill, the poster athlete for potential lost to injury, has been repaired; at 38 years old he’s a full-time starter on an NBA playoff team who can hold his own while guarding some of the most explosive scorers in the world.
So why do I get this nauseating feeling that Brandon Roy is limping toward a place where, before he’s 30, he’ll be playing more like 2010 Tracy McGrady than 2001 T-Mac?
Perhaps we shouldn’t feel too sorry for B-Roy. He has had four-plus years at the top of the game, making the playoffs, hitting game-winners, dropping 40 on Ron Artest and 50 on the entire Phoenix Suns. He signed an $80 million contract with the Blazers while bringing the franchise back to relevancy. He and his girl and his babies are taken care of, and he has completed the toughest part of reaching his dream by simply making it to the NBA in the first place. But the rest of the dream — championships, MVP’s, etc. — will be a sky-high hurdle to clear if aching knees are going to be a problem game after game and season after season. As talented as they are, Kobe and Tim Duncan needed a special kind of luck along the way, luck which B-Roy is missing.
So enjoy it while you can. That would be the lesson for Brand Roy, for every young ballplayer who dreams of being where Brandon Roy is, and for every fan who likes the League in which B-Roy plays. The men we see as cornerstones can’t stay unbreakable forever.
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12. Joe Johnson (Hawks)
13. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)