Brandon Roy was an offensive star who played mediocre defense. He lacked the high-end athleticism to play great defense in the NBA. Like most offensive stars, Roy coasted some on the defensive end but was generally seen as someone who gave decent effort, stayed in position and played acceptable but not great defense.
Brandon Roy on Defense: Stats
Brandon Roy is a player who brings out pretty strong opinions because his career was cut so short. One way to cut through people’s possibly faulty memories and strong opinions is to look at the numbers.
Basketball statistics are in no way perfect. They give a better picture of a player’s offense than they do their defense, for instance. But they are a good place to start when trying to honestly determine the skills of players.
Basketball Reference lists five defensive statistics in its advanced statistics section. They also list defensive rating in their per 100 stats, which attempts to measure a player’s defensive effectiveness per 100 possessions.
In Brandon Roy’s case, these numbers point toward him being a pretty average defender.
Rebounds, Blocks and StealsEmbed from Getty Images
Brandon Roy was a 6’6’’ shooting guard. Shooting guards are generally not paid to get rebounds. Roy didn’t dominate the glass but he did okay.
Brandon’s career defensive rebound percentage of 11.1% is fine. It compares favorably with much-smaller guard Allen Iverson who finished at 8.1%. But it falls short of Kobe Bryant’s 12.7%.
One area where a shooting guard who is a good defender should stand out is steals or blocks. Really good defenders block or steal a lot of balls. Brandon Roy did not do either enough to make me think he was a strong defender.
A guard is not going to block shots like Bill Russell but Brandon Roy’s block percentage of .5% is bad. How bad?
John Stockton at 6’0” was too little to block NBA shots. But even he had the same .5% career block percentage! Yikes. John Stockton should not be able to block as many shots as you if you are a 6’6” NBA guard.
At least Brandon Roy finished ahead of Iverson who finished at .3%. But finishing ahead of 6’0” AI in blocked shots is not much to brag about.
In more fair comparisons, Kobe had a 1.0%, Vince Carter a 1.5% and T-Mac had a 1.9%.
Brandon Roy got more steals than he did blocks. But even here, his numbers fall short of most other excellent guards of the era.
Roy’s career steal percentage of 1.6% is lower than another player noted much more for offensive skill than for defense: Ray Allen. Both Sugar Ray and Vinsanity finished at 1.7%. Tracy McGrady, Iverson and Kobe all finished with much higher steal percentages.
Overall Advanced Defensive Statistics
Some stats like defensive rating try to capture the big picture of a player’s defense. It essentially measures how many baskets a player gives up per 100 possessions.
Brandon Roy’s 110 defensive rating is bad. It is easily the worst of the star guards of this era I have been mentioning. Who does it compare to? Muggsy Bogues, at 5’3” the shortest player in the history of the league, had a 109.
Now, I have written that Muggsy was actually pretty decent on defense, but he had some obvious limits 6’6” Brandon Roy did not.
Defensive box plus/minus is an estimate of how many points a player gave up per possession when compared to a league average player & team.
This is decent stat for Brandon in comparison to other guards of the era. His career -.1 finishes slightly behind Vince Carter but ahead of both Allen Iverson and Ray Allen.
On the other hand, the negative number means he was a slightly-below average defender in the league.
Defensive win shares is a complicated stat that attempts to measure how much a player contributes to his team while on the floor. I have used it in my player defensive breakdowns up to this point. But career defensive win shares is not a fair stat for Brandon Roy.
He finished with 8.8 career defensive win shares but did not have enough years to have a fair comparison to any of the players I have discussed. This stat is impacted by years played and is simply not fair to use for Brandon Roy.
Brandon Roy’s Career Stats Compared to Other Players
Overall, Brandon Roy’s career defensive stats are not strong. He does not stack up well with the other star guards of the same general era as you can see below. His stats are similar to Ray Allen, who I rated as a generally poor defender who had some good years.
But Brandon Roy’s defensive statistics are considerably worse than Kobe Bryant, who was good but overrated, and Tracy McGrady who had great skill but under performed.
Did people think Brandon Roy was a good defender while he was playing?Embed from Getty Images
This scouting report from before he was drafted offers the general views most observers had of Brandon Roy’s defense during his time in the league. It makes sense that not too much changed from the draft to his retirement because that time was so short.
In general, people thought Brandon was a decent but hardly dominant defender. He did not possess the outlier athleticism of some of the people I compared to him above like Kobe or Vince Carter.
Because he was a good, but not freakish, athlete, he could not always stay in front of the elite athletes of the NBA. He did not have the length of a T-Mac to block many shots or the insane quickness of an Allen Iverson to steal balls left and right.
He was viewed as a heady, smart player who mostly played good team defense by positioning himself well and giving good effort. But in the NBA, that is not always enough to make you a good defender because the players you are up against are so good at breaking you down.
Like many players who were offensive stars of this era, he was also viewed as someone who coasted a bit at times on defense. Virtually every player I have compared to Brandon Roy faced that same charge – except Muggsy and Stockton.
But those players mostly had the insane athleticism to counterbalance the coasting when needed. Certainly the Tracy McGrady’s and Vince Carter’s of the world could rely on elite athleticism.
But Brandon Roy, like Ray Allen, could not. Both players had good athleticism for the NBA but neither was a total freak. While Allen is mostly remembered for shooting, Roy had a more well-rounded scoring game and was a better passer.
Both Allen and Roy were offensive geniuses who were not nearly as strong defensively. They had neither the outlier athleticism nor the non-stop effort it takes to be great NBA defenders.
Allen was fine defensively. He played pretty good defense when put in position to do so in Boston. If Brandon Roy had been able to play anywhere near as long, it is likely he would have found himself in a similar position where he was freed up to play more defense and would have been able to do so.
But he never got that chance because his knees would not allow it. Brandon Roy was never voted to any all-NBA defensive teams and probably did not deserve much consideration for them. He was an average defender who used a lot of energy on offense.Embed from Getty Images
Summary: Brandon Roy on Defense
Brandon Roy’s career was cut short by knee injuries that robbed him of his prime years. In his five main years in the league, he was an average defender who put up average to slightly-below-average career statistics. Roy coasted a bit on defense, but mostly lacked the elite athleticism needed to be a great NBA defender.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.