Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Freeland Earns Backup Center Position


He won’t “wow” you with his end of game statlines, but Joel Freeland is making a difference on the floor. In his second year in the NBA, Freeland has made an impact on the defensive side of the ball by altering shots, protecting the rim, and earning the respect of his teammates and coaches alike.

In fact, Freeland has earned enough respect, that he has passed Meyers Leonard as the back-up center for the Portland Trail Blazers. In Thursday’s preseason win over Golden State, Freeland logged 15 minutes, backing up Robin Lopez, in the middle. He finished with only two points and two rebounds, but contested shots at the rim and made plenty of strong defensive plays.

Freeland worked all summer long on his defense, and it looks like it is starting to pay off. He tirelessly went through drill after drill to change his defensive technique, and to leap straight up and down to contest a shot, instead of lunging towards a shooter. The result, so far, has been fewer frustrating fouls and more shots being altered. The regular season has yet to begin, but if Joel can keep up his defensive intensity and continue to play smart, he will cement himself into the backup center role for the entire season.

Tags: Joel Freeland Portland Trail Blazers

  • blazerfan808

    Despite Meyers getting demoted, and while I do this its the right decision, offensively I liked what I have seen from him this pre-season. I’m thinking now that Meyers may never possess the ability to be a true C that plays both ends, but does possess the natural skill to be a PF. I would not hesitate to say that he is one of the better shooters on the team. He has his own technique, can shoot over the top of anyone, and is really comfortable from 12′ out. Both Cody Zeller and Kelly Olynyk played C in college, but have since transitioned into PF. I think this might be a similar case for Leonard. This might make a bunch of people gag, but I’d like to see this explored, and maybe have Leonard play alongside ROLO in some capacity.

  • Draftdog

    I was in the Leonard camp at draft time….but then I also was a believer in Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Arnett Moultrie. Moultrie is in the East and we haven’t heard much from him. White is making the wrong kind of headlines and Lamb can’t seem to put the ball in the hole. However, the jury is still out on all four, so I still hope for the best. Meyer Leonard, to me, is a puzzle. With all his physical gifts, thus far he is a monumental under achiever. blazerfan808 wants to move him to power forward, but I don’t see that solving his defensive problems. All five positions have to play defense, and all front court players have similar defensive rotations albeit the center position carries a heavier load. It didn’t seem, from the beginning that Stotts was pleased with this agile giant. All along I have been blaming the coaching staff for his lack of progress, but now I am not sure. If the Blazers send him elsewhere and he turns into a high quality big man, remember Jermaine O’Neal, my vote will be for Stotts’ exit. Of course my vote is already for Stotts’ exit, so I guess it won’t change anything.