Another Blazer from across the Atlantic made his debut last year. Victor Claver of Spain joined the Blazers after being drafted by the team in 2009 with the 22nd overall pick. Similar to Joel Freeland, Claver plays on his home country’s national team. However, Claver is a little more decorated than Freeland.
|Photo Courtesy of: bleacherreport.net|
He made his professional debut in 2006-07 with Valencia at age 18. He played in Europe’s “second-level” competition, The Eurocup, starting in 2007-08 and won it in 2009-10. In the 2010-11 season, he played in the Euroleague and averaged 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 14 games. He also competed in the FIBA EuroBasket with Spain in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The first two times, 2009 & 2011, Spain won the gold medal, in 2013 they won the Bronze. Claver also played on the Spanish national team during the 2012 London Olympics and finished with a silver medal.
In July of 2012, he signed a three-year deal with the Blazers. He made his first start on December 10 and scored four points, collected five rebounds and dished two assists in 25 minutes of play. Much like Freeland, Claver suffered from backup at his primary position, small forward, because Luke Babbitt and even Sasha Pavolivic got minutes at the three spot. However, that didn’t deter the 25-year-old as he started 16 games last season and played in a total of 49 games. His best scoring game was also his most efficient as a Blazer. He scored 12 points off of four of five shooting (80%) and two of three from downtown, and two of four from the charity stripe. He also grabbed five rebounds and had two assists in the loss to Utah.
Unfortunately for Claver, small forward is even more log-jammed than it was last year. He has to contend with Dorell Wright, E.J. Singler (if he gets invited to the final roster) and potentially C.J. McCollum for backup time. Claver should be able to beat out Singler and McCollum at small forward because Claver is proven and knows the offence. However, beating out Wright to back up Nicolas Batum will be a challenge. That being said, it was reported that Wright got hurt today during practice and was held out after the injury. This is Claver’s chance to prove that he belongs as Batum’s primary backup. Sadly, I think that whenever Wright is ready to go he will be the immediate backup. Wright’s 3-pt shooting ability is uncanny and Claver would have to go from okay shooter to lights out scorer to be out Wright.
The saving grace for Claver is that Blazers usually have injury problems, but hopefully they won’t this year (knock on wood, QUICKLY). However, if the trend continues Claver could get a chance to play some backup and maybe start again like he did last year. One thing Claver does have going for him is that he and Damian Lillard had a great connection and had several alley-oops near the end of the year. The chemistry with Lillard could be enough to get him a few minutes here and there. Claver can play, it’s just a matter of if and when he’ll play.