Trail Blazers fans and lowly bloggers are not alone in that opinion. ESPN's David Thorpe takes a break from grading this year's rookies to run down the successes and failures of the sophomore class. As you might expect, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are two of the three second-year players Thorpe tabs as "The Big Three."
1. Brandon Roy, Blazers
The reigning Rookie of the Year is still at the head of the class. He's not a special athlete, nor a dead-eye shooter, and he doesn't "Iverson" too many people with jaw-dropping ballhandling moves. What he is, though, is a great player, because he's good or very good at everything. He defies NBA scouts' creed of "have to be great at one thing" to be a legit NBA player. Literally, this is a player without a real weakness.
I'm most impressed by his pace. Roy plays at a unique tempo that makes him look slow. But as he goes past guys or creates open midrange jumpers with his handle and timing, we realize that everyone else is moving even slower because he is in total control of his game and the ballgame in general. He may not ever be a league MVP, but a Finals MVP seems like a strong possibility one day. Portland's young bigs and higher draft picks (LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden) are no more important to the franchise's future than Roy is -- that's how special he is.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers
Probably the second most talented sophomore and another can't-miss Portland prospect (along with Roy and Oden) who is an integral part of the Blazers' bright future. Except for some injury concerns, Aldridge leaves no question as to how he will be a dominant power forward in this league. He combines his dynamite turnaround jumper (with his high release) and his right-hand jump hook to form a simple but very effective low-post game. And I think he plays even better in open space; he has a great feel for pick and popping or flashing to open spots.
He's a good shooter, a good shot-blocker and a willing rebounder -- three keys to being more than an average power forward in the NBA. He's still thin, but that does not keep him from bashing inside -- a hint to what he'll be like when he naturally adds 20 pounds or so over the next few years.
Rudy Gay slips in at No. 2, by the way.
I wonder if there's ever been a player who's been lauded for his "pace" as much as Brandon Roy has. Every time someone breaks down B.Roy's game, they always mention pace. It's a great observation, one which seems to be almost exclusive to Roy.
Also high praise for Aldridge. I've always considered him a "can't miss prospect," but I think people outside of the Northwest are only now coming to that realization.