HANG TIME WEST – They are coming, finally. Eventually.
The Olympics are the last step. Victor Claver will play for Spain as a heavy favorite to medal and Joel Freeland for host Britain as a heavy favorite to not medal. They then become Trail Blazers teammates with enough recovery time on their hands before training camp opens.
That they will become Blazers at all is a development more significant than most international arrivals. Two at the same time is noteworthy. Two at the same time for the frontline, with the chance to immediately join the rotation, is important for a team trying to push back into the playoffs and can use their help.
Claver, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound small forward who can play some power forward, was the No. 22 pick in 2009. Freeland, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward who can play some center, was No. 30 in 2006. That’s a lot of waiting that, at last, faces a payoff.
“I think the time was absolutely right for both of them to come,” said Neil Olshey, the new general manager who joined the organization years after both were drafted. “We’ve got a young roster and they’ve both got a chance to contribute immediately if their game translates from what they’ve done in international basketball. They both play positions where we’re going to need some depth. And they’ve both got transferrable skills. Joel’s ability to rebound, score around the basket, defend multiple positions. And Victor’s length, his ability to stretch the floor, he’s a nice complement to Nic.”
Indeed, Claver is expected to compete for minutes behind Nicolas Batum. The Olshey scouting report on Claver, who has been playing in the Spanish ACB League, regarded as the second-best league in the world?:
“I think defensively, he’s going to be able to do a really good job on threes with his length. He’s a good chase guy. He’s got quick feet, good instincts. He shrinks the court. He closes down passing lanes. We were hoping both were going to play in summer league, but clearly they’ve got a great opportunity now (with the Olympics) to compete at a really high level, which will accelerate their learning curve once they get back.”
Freeland, 25, who has also been playing in the ACB, will join J.J. Hickson as backups to All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. The Olshey scouting report on Freeland?:
“Joel’s a traditional four man. But I think when you have the luxury of having a 6-11 four man like LaMarcus, they can be on the floor at the same time. He scores around the basket. I think he’s actually got more of a center-offensive game right now. Defensively, the athleticism, the size of NBA centers would take an adjustment for him. But the big asset for him is he’s a tough kid and he’s a warrior and he’s not afraid of physical basketball. That’ll serve him well against guys that will out-size him a little bit.”