Randy Foye or Brandon Roy?


At the 2006 NBA Draft, Minnesota selected Brandon Roy, and then traded his rights to the Portland Trail Blazers for Randy Foye. The general reaction at the time of the draft-day deal was of the "We'll have to wait and see," ilk, but as the season wore on and Roy played his way to Rookie of the Year honors, skeptics started to wonder why the Wolves made the deal.

That wonderment, of course, was short-sighted and almost irrelevant; Foye vs. Roy isn't an argument that can be won or lost for a few years. Yet, when you really dig in and break down the numbers, the comparison becomes quite interesting. This article does not deal with intangible or defense and makes no claim of being entirely comprehensive. But, hopefully, we've broken down the data and circumstances well enough to show that Foye is not only right there with Roy, but has shown signs of leapfrogging everyone in his rookie class.

First of all, and most importantly, Roy played 35.3 minutes per game to Foye's 22.9. That's the bottom line in terms of dictation to statistics, so we'll start right there:

MINUTES
Randy Foye, Minnesota: 22.9
Brandon Roy, Portland: 35.3

The most important reason why getting minutes is valuable to a player is the increased chance to develop more quickly ... Getting game experience correlates directly with improvement. This is even more important for a point guard like Foye, who had to learn the league's most difficult position on the floor in limited minutes. So, in their rookie campaigns, Roy had a better chance to improve on a nightly basis because he was on the floor longer.

The statistical result of minutes played is the ensuing difference in production, providing that the talent of the two players is comparable (which it is). With Roy playing 12.4 more minutes a game, he was able to put up 6.7 points, 1.7 boards and 1.2 assists more than Foye. So when you look at their numbers without considering minutes played, Roy is obviously more productive. But, give Foye the number of minutes Roy averaged, and see what happens to the production:

WITH 35+ MINUTES
Foye: 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals in five games of 35+ minutes
Roy: 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals

Perhaps this is the best statistical comparison we have to go on? In the five games during which Foye saw at least 35 minutes of burn, his production was terrific. He averaged 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Exhibit A: In the season finale against Memphis, Foye played for 35 minutes and 13 seconds (almost exactly equal to Roy's mpg). The former Villanova star scored 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting (67 percent), grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out six assists. In his first start of the season against Phoenix -- with no Kevin Garnett or Ricky Davis -- Foye scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in 37 minutes.

I also checked out Roy's game-by-game statistics, and because he rarely played fewer than 35 minutes (15 times, vs. 42 games of 35+ minutes) his season averages are fair. In fact, they sway on the conservative side, because he had a total of 21 minutes in his first two games back from injury in which he scored zero points with one rebound and two assists.

PRODUCTION PER ROY'S 35.3 MINUTES
Foye: 15.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg
Roy: 16.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.0 apg

These are Roy's actual minutes, and what Foye's numbers would have been with Roy's minutes. But in actuality, had Foye actually gotten to play the additional 1,589 minutes* there is little doubt that his production would have increased even more. For you math majors out there, those 1,589 minutes are about 33 full games worth. In short, the numbers look the same, but consider the fact that production increases at a much higher degree when you actually get big minutes. Figuring out how your small-minute games would translate into more minutes sways conservatively on the totals. That's good for Foye.
*35.3 min. x 82 games - 22.9 min x 82 games

One counterpoint in Roy's favor is that he played in only 57 games, so Foye's lack of additional minutes in terms of the entire season doesn't stand out as much. Still, we reiterate, isn't it more advantageous to play 35 minutes in one game than half as much in two games? We saw this clearly with Foye's production in the five games he did play big minutes.

PER 48 MINUTES
Foye: 21.2 points/48 minutes (2nd among rookies)
Roy: 22.8 points/48 minutes (1st among rookies)

Again, basically a wash. They're both pretty good.

EFFICIENCY RATING*
Foye: 20.05
Roy: 22.42

Randy and Brandon are again quite comparable here. As he does almost every year, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett dominates this category (29.17), with Kobe Bryant coming in second (27.65).
*Efficiency rating is calculated using the following formula: ((pts + reb + stls + asts + blk) - ((fga - fgm) + (fta - ftm) + to))/games.

SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
Foye: 43.6 FG%, 36.8 3P%, 85.4 FT%
Roy: 45.6 FG%, 37.7 3P%, 83.8 FT%

OK, this is starting to get ridiculous. These numbers could not be much closer. As far as Foye goes, he came into the NBA with a nice shooting stroke, but at times struggled from the perimeter as he learned how to utilize screens, get his shot in rhythm, and know when to shoot or pass within the context of the Wolves' offense. The great news for Foye and Minnesota here is that by the end of the season and particularly in the Las Vegas Summer League, Foye had improved exponentially in this regard. No one watched him more throughout the year than assistant coach Rex Kalamian.

"He just seems more comfortable," said Kalamian. "Randy was thrown in spots sometimes where he was in a difficult position (last year), but I think everyone is happy with his progress. He understands the point guard position much better now, and you saw the results in Vegas, where he was basically able to dictate what happened on the floor."

SLAMS & SWATS
Two ways to judge explosiveness are rim-rocking jams, and blocks. Foye also had 21 blocks compared to Roy's 10, despite playing 136 fewer minutes. Most teams don't track dunks, but Wolves' stats guru Paul Swanson had Foye tabbed for at least eight. In terms of pure athleticism, we may have to give an edge to our boy here. Bias aside, clearly.

BOTTOM LINE
This article in no way attempts to minimize the worth of Roy's terrific and deserving Rookie-of-the-Year season. We used numbers to attempt and show that Foye stacks up favorably with the best of the 2006-07 rookies, and to suggest that you keep an eye on his production this coming season as the Wolves' probable starting point guard.

In closing, we showed that when Foye got big minutes (if rarely), you saw his production rise not just accordingly, but exponentially. On the other hand, Roy stayed pretty consistently around his very solid 16, 4 and 4 averages in his 35 minutes per. Give Foye those 35+ and you got 21, 6 and 4, if just for five games. This argument won't be of paramount importance for another few years, but it's a good start.