By now, most NBA fans are aware of the Derrick Rose story. After winning the 2010-11 NBA MVP Award, Rose would suffer an ACL injury during the playoffs in the following season, and injury that would nearly ruin his career and totally change his style of play.
But do you remember former Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy?
The Blazers acquired the draft rights to Roy after he was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, and Roy immediately flashed his star potential. The former University of Washington standout would win the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007 before being named to three consecutive All-Star teams between 2008 and 2010.
Unfortunately, a number of knee injuries and degenerative arthritis would totally derail Roy’s career, and he was eventually forced to retire after just six seasons in the NBA.
This prompts the question: what if Brandon Roy had remained healthy?
Top three shooting guard of the era
The shooting guard position was defined by two people during the late 2000s and early 2010s: Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Coincidentally, both Bryant and Wade are likely to go down as two of the three best shooting guards in league history.
Had Roy stayed healthy, he might have been in the same class as both Wade and Bryant. He was named to the All-NBA team in consecutive seasons, and he had the fourth-highest Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) value for the 2008-09 season. Roy also ranked sixth in win shares that season.
Roy was one of the deadliest midrange players in the game, but he could also play as a combo guard and fill it up from deep when he chose to stalk the perimeter. In the first round of the 2008-09 playoffs, Roy averaged 26.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting over 47 percent from beyond the arc.
In addition to a deft shooting touch, Roy had tremendous athleticism and a fantastic handle. He used his length to create space and could finish with both hands. So if he had healthy knees, imagine just how much more explosive he could have been.
Given his scoring abilities as well as his hypothetical development as a combo guard for a Portland team on the rise (more on this in a second), there is every reason to believe that Roy would be regarded as one of the best shooting guards of the era, at the very least.
Best in the West?
With a healthy Roy at the top of his game and LaMarcus Aldridge budding into a star, the Trail Blazers won 54 games during the 2008-09 season and were the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Though Portland won 50 games the next season, they began to unravel as Roy’s knees began to fail.
But if Roy had continued to stay healthy and play at a high level, could the Trail Blazers have become the best team in the Western Conference?
Of course, the Lakers ruled the end of the 2000s and then won a title in 2010 with Kobe still at the peak of his powers and Pau Gasol playing the Robin to Kobe’s Batman. However, the West began to open up as the Lakers started to slide.
Are the Trail Blazers better than the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks (who won the NBA title) with Roy at the top of his game? That season, LaMarcus Aldridge averaged close to 22 points while Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum emerged as extremely dependable wing options. Portland also had grinders like Marcus Camby and Andre Miller making big contributions.
If the Trail Blazers are able to climb that initial hump in the Western Conference, do they prove to be just as dangerous as the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team that would take the league by storm.
We will never know just how good the Trail Blazers could have been, but with two legitimate (and improving) stars in Brandon Roy and Aldridge, the sky may have been the limit.