When the Portland Trail Blazers selected Joel Freeland with the 30th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, I’m sure they weren’t saying to themselves, “Man, I cannot wait until this guy comes over in six or seven years and provides us with some mediocre basketball!”
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what they got from backup center Joel Freeland this year, although he did show some definite value as a backup, perhaps long-term. Freeland beat out Meyers Leonard for that backup role in training camp and it was a bit surprising at first, but soon it was plain to see how and why Freeland was being used over Leonard.
Freeland is now 27 years old and that seems old, considering he just finished only his second season in the NBA. In the 2013-14 season Freeland played in 52 games, averaging 14.0 minutes and posting 3.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per night. His efficiency improved but is still nowhere near where it needs to be for a big man in this league — he shot 47.5 percent from the field and 69.0 percent from the free throw stripe. That equates to a true shooting percentage of 49.8 — league average this year was 53.9.
The British-born center showed his worth before the All-Star break as he was the backup for newcomer Robin Lopez and he hung his hat on his defense, which he played pretty well. Freeland knows that his job is to come in and provide some quality minutes off the bench and maybe get a bucket here or there, and he filled that role perfectly, until Dec. 28 when it all came crashing down for him.
In a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he sprained his right MCL in his knee and it caused him to miss pretty much the remainder of the season (he played in the last game of the year). Here’s a great GIF of the injury provided by @cjzero; don’t look if you’re easily disturbed by injuries. Up to that point the Blazers were 37-15 in the 52 games played by Freeland and his injury left them without a reliable backup for Lopez for the remainder of the year.
Freeland is entering the final year of a three-year contract and in 2014-15 he will earn just more than $3 million. The fact that he showed he can be productive in a backup role makes him expendable as a trade asset should Portland try to get into the draft somehow in Thursday, or sometime down the road. Expiring deals have shown to not be quite as valuable as during the last CBA but they still hold an intrinsic value nonetheless.
If the Blazers decide to roll the dice with young, big man Meyers Leonard this upcoming season (which I think they might) then Freeland could be the odd man out. Who knows what Freeland will do after his contract is up because if not picked up by the Blazers, then honestly maybe he heads back to Spain or Europe in general, where he stands to get much more playing time to finish out his career.
Freeland will join a large cast of Blazers in Las Vegas for summer league as Will Barton, Thomas Robinson, Allen Crabbe, C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard have already been added to that roster as well.