Back when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Joel Feeland 30th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, the idea at the time was to draft and stash the big man over in Europe and let him develop his game.
After playing with Gran Canaria until 2009, the 6-foot-10 forward and center moved to Unicaja Malaga and is coming off a season where he led the team in scoring and rebounds with 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 55% from the field in Spain’s renowned ACB League. Freeland also averaged 12.8 and 6.7 rebounds per game in the Euroleague.
What better time for him to finally make the jump to the NBA.
Portland and Freeland’s camp have been in constant contact and talks throughout the season about making a move this sumer, and while there is mutual interest from both sides to make it happen there is still a lot up in the air.
At this point the realities of Freeland finally landing in the NBA are legit.
However, it’s up for debate if Portland will end up being the final destination after all is said and done or if a return in Spain is in the works.
While both Joe Cronin and Steve Rosenberry, two members of the Blazers front office, traveled to Europe in early May to see and talk with Freeland – and fellow draft and stash in Europe project Victor Claver – about a future in Portland, Freeland is still keeping his options open.
He has not wavered – Freeland will wait until after playing this summer with the Great Britain National Team before making his decision final. But in the meantime, Freeland's camp is fielding interest and talking to a number of teams around the league according to a number of people who are familiar with the situation.
The thinking here is, there remains a chance that Portland could trade Freeland’s draft rights come draft night and his camp wants to be familiar and have all of the information available to make an educated decision about his NBA future.
In the meantime, the Blazers are planning to visit Freeland this coming weekend to continue their discussions.
“We're leaving on Friday to go down to Houston Joel Freeland is in town with the Great Britain national team, they've got a couple of scrimmages so we're going to watch Joel practice on Friday night, Saturday and spend some time with him in between,” Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey said Monday after another round of pre-draft workouts.
“They play Lithuania Saturday night. It's a good chance to get a tactile relationship with Joel. Get a feeling for what his thoughts are and his goals would be as far as joining the roster next year. See if we can make some progress in working something out there.”
Although Portland holds the draft rights to the 25-year old Freeland, they will certainly treat this ongoing situation with care and basically take advantage of their mid-level exception and/or cap space to welcome Freeland to Rip City. Keep in mind Freeland has two years left on his deal with Unicaja Malaga and there is a 1 million (Euro) buyout to consider. There is also a July 10 deadline lingering where Malaga wants to know if Freeland is in or out for next season overseas.
Back to Portland real quick: imagine a frontline of LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Freeland. There’s no doubt the Blazers’ brass will use that duo as a selling point.
It would be the best of both worlds and two big men to build a solid foundation upon.
Still, just as Portland and Freeland have had on-going conversations for the last two seasons about envisioning the big man playing for the Blazers, the stance has not changed from Freeland’s side of the table. The financial dealings aren’t what this is all about.
Instead, Freeland suiting up for Portland next season will come down to his role and playing time and appeasing Freeland in that regard. But how can those areas be guaranteed by Portland at this juncture without a head coach in the mix or to really know how Freeland fits in what will be a new offensive system for the Blazers?
What kind of role and playing time will Freeland truly be satisfied with during these negotiations? And how will Olshey play his cards with Freeland knowing whatever money is left on the table will come in handy during free agency?
This deal is far from done.
And right now -- despite each side said saying they share mutual interest in Freeland transitioning to the NBA -- there are no guarantees.
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