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.