The biggest Blazer from across the pond, Joel Freeland is looking to show what he can do in his second season with the Blazers. Listed as a Forward/Center, Freeland stands at 6’10” and he played in England for 6 years before joining the Blazers last season. He was drafted with the 30th overall pick in the 2006 draft; yes the same draft the Blazers acquired Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, after he was drafted the Blazers encouraged him to continue learning and honing his skills in the European circuit.
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Last year Freeland suffered the most because of the depth at Center with J.J. Hickson and young buck, Meyers Leonard. Although more experienced and possibly better suited to play right away the Blazers chose to play and groom their new big man from Illinois instead of their giant from Great Britain. Freeland’s stats don’t wow anyone, but how could they? He only got to play in 51 games, only starting one game. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in an average of 9.4 minutes a game.
Although the full body of work doesn’t look promising from last year, Freeland had his best game as a Blazer in the second to last game of the season against the Clippers. He played 28 minutes and hit 50% (5/10) of his shots from the field and three of four from the charity stripe on pace for 13 points. He also hauled in six rebounds during the game.
After a subpar season, you can bet the Freeland is looking to show the Rip City faithful what he can really do on a basketball court. To prove he is focused on the Blazers, Freeland withdrew from the Great Britain national team in the summer to focus on practicing with his teammates for the upcoming NBA season.
Look for an improved and fiercer version of Freeland as he looks to compete with Leonard to backup Robin Lopez. Also, don’t be surprised if you see Freeland subbing in for L.A. too. Freeland can play PF and C, so expect him to challenge Thomas Robinson as well. Unfortunately, Freeland may be the odd man out on the bench because of the additions of Lopez and Robinson, however don’t think that means he will sit and sulk about where he is on the bench. Freeland can be a great body to have when L.A., Lopez, Robinson or Leonard get hurt. As we all know as Blazer fans, you can never have too many big men with skill. Freeland has the opportunity to be like Joel Przybilla minus the mean streak that Przybilla had when he was on the court. If Freeland can develop the attitude and protective mentality that Przybilla had, then the Blazers will be set with the Center position going forward.
Freeland provides a third big man to spell any of the PF and C’s I listed. Freeland will also be able to provide another body when L.A. and potentially Robinson get into foul trouble. We got to see a little taste of Leonard and Freeland in the game together last year, so if they have both worked on their interior skills I could see them in the game together again. Look for Stotts to mix up the second unit with shots of Leonard, doses of Robinson and sprinkles of Freeland to throw off defensive schemes. Big things are coming from the British big man, just give him time.