Roy Remains Biggest ‘What If’ in Blazers History


The Portland Trail Blazers have been an NBA franchise since 1970. In the 50-plus years since joining the league, they have had their fair share of what-ifs.

Some notable ones include: what if Greg Oden did not have leg problems? What if Bill Walton stayed healthy post-Championship? More recently, the team will potentially add a new what-if to the list. If the team trades star Damian Lillard, it will add the new question of what if the Blazers had an All-Star big man after LaMarcus Aldridge alongside Lillard

Another injury-riddled what-if scenario is the one with the greatest lost potential. Just over a decade ago, former Blazers star shooting guard Brandon Roy retired from the league due to knee injuries. His retirement led to the clear what-if— what if Roy had healthy knees? 

When the Blazers drafted Roy with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft out of Washington, they were looking to shed their “Jail Blazers” moniker. Alongside the aforementioned Aldridge and Oden, things were beginning to look up with a plethora of young talent. 

Roy’s Rookie of the Year

Roy got off to a quick start in his career. In 57 games in year one — 55 starts — he averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists en route to winning the league’s Rookie of the Year Award. With his help, the Blazers improved by 11 wins, from a 21-61 finish to finishing 32-50

One of the best performances of his rookie season came in just the 22nd game of his career. He scored 28 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, good for a game score of 23.0. 

Voting for his Rookie of the Year Award was near-unanimous, as he received 127 out of 128 first-place votes, becoming the steal of the draft. Although the time he missed during the year was due to knee injuries, the team’s medical staff was not worried about his recovery.

Career peak and early injuries

In just the second year of his career, Roy was an All-Star. In what became a 19.1-points-per-game season, a 41-41 finish for the Blazers, the 23-year-old guard already was among the best in the league. 

After his first All-Star selection, he did not slow down in year three. Playing in 78 games — the most of his career — he had the best season of his career. Averaging 22.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals, he was named to his second All-Star Game and the All-NBA Second Team

In that 2008 season, he helped lead the Blazers to a 54-28 finish and postseason berth, with the team trending upwards every season. In the fifth game of the season, he hit a game-winning three against the Houston Rockets. The shot came at the exact spot and against the same team that Lillard buried in the 2014 playoffs. 

Sadly, the final healthy year in Roy’s career was the very next season. Making his third-straight All-Star Game, he played just 65 games while averaging 21.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists a game en route to an All-NBA Third Team selection. The Blazers made the postseason again, finishing 50-32, but again did not make it out of the first round. 

Unbeknownst to fans, this was the last of prime Roy that was seen. 

The end 

In his fifth career season, he played just 47 games and made just 23 starts. His battle with knee injuries due to missing cartilage culminated in him having to make the difficult decision to retire early to save his ability to walk in the future. 

“This is a very difficult and painful day,” Roy said in a statement released by the team. “I love the game, I love the Portland Trail Blazers and I love our fans, but after consulting with my doctors, I will seek a determination that I’ve suffered a career-ending injury, pursuant to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Roy returned to the league during a five-game stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but injuries cut his return short and five games was it. 

Only a Fantasy

Being the youthful leader of an up-and-coming Blazers team, he and Aldridge likely become one of the best tandems in the league. In his final healthy season, a young Nicolas Batum was coming into his own and Oden still had upside despite major concerns about his health. 

A bigger what-if is likely based on the wishful thinking that both Oden and Roy stayed healthy, but that was not in the cards. 

Seeing as Roy retired after his 26-year-old season, fans did not witness the best basketball of his career. Entering his prime age, the Blazers would use draft or free agency to build around a high-volume scorer with capital and have the skill set necessary to take a team deep in the playoffs in the early 2010s. 

Roy had the ideal playstyle for his era in the NBA and, without injuries, could have led the Blazers to their second NBA Championship, but alas, it is just a fantasy.

Clyde Drexler 1993 All-Star Game Bobblehead!

Portland Trail Blazers Clyde Drexler

Blaze a trail to an All-Star Weekend of yesteryear with this Clyde Drexler Portland Trail Blazers 1993 NBA All-Star Bobblehead.

About Brandon Willman

Multimedia Journalism student in the PNW with a passion for sports writing. Washington native and fell in love with the Blazers at a young age.

    Recommended for you

    Powered by