I had high hopes for Victor Claver before the 2013-2014 NBA season. Truth be told, I still do, but I am skeptical that his time will arrive in Portland. It really is too bad. Although he comes with the same gelling issues you would expect from any player that notched just over three total hours of basketball in an entire NBA season, he is perhaps Portland’s most overlooked talent. This is not to say that Claver is a stud, but, last time I checked, serviceable players are important—especially for teams that lack depth.
I tend to think Claver was limited not because he was incapable of playing well, but because he was not used for his strengths when he was used at all. I believe it was Albert ‘Dragic’ Einstein that quipped, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Claver was a reliable 3-point shooter in Spain, but Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts needs to realize that the greater distance of the NBA 3-point line is Claver’s tree. This represents a distinct problem since Stotts’ offensive system revolves around floor spacing.
Take a look at Claver’s shot chart.
That’s a whole lot of ugly from anywhere outside of eight feet. Claver desperately needs to work on his range. However; the bigger problem in the short term is that Stotts had a 16.7 percent 3-point shooter take nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc when he shot 76.47 percent in the restricted area. Claver’s talent for finishing did carry over from Euroleague play, so I was disappointed to see him primarily used for an ability that translated so poorly instead.
Then again, it wasn’t Claver’s scoring that was supposed to get him playing time. He is a good decision maker and a gifted rebounder. His defense is even okay at times, which is more than can be said for many players on Portland’s bench. He is 6’9” tall, 25 years old, and smart. A little development could have gone a long way for Claver—who, by the way, is on contract through 2014-2015 with a qualifying offer for 2015-2016 as well.
Even if he does not factor into the Trail Blazers long term plans (a near certainty at this point), at least a few minutes here and there would have given other teams a chance to see what he has to offer. As much as I would like to see Portland invest in Claver at least a little bit, I would be happier if they traded him— mostly because I know Claver would be happier too—but by keeping him on the bench all year, the Trail Blazers may have stymied any interest and severely limited what they could get in return.
This is all sorts of bad news for Claver. Unless the Trail Blazers squeeze him into a three-team trade (not ruling it out), I doubt very much that another team will seek his services. If nobody wants him and the Trail Blazers do not aggressively shop him, he will be doomed to another season of playing against his strengths in limited minutes. In order for Claver to be useful in Portland, one of two things needs to happen:
- Claver needs to expand his game without the luxury of game-time competition so that he fits enough to be plugged into the rotation.
- Stotts needs to grow as a coach and find a way to access Claver’s talent instead of wasting depth for lack of systemic function.
I do not see either of those happening at this point in time, which is why I feel for Claver. He is not a great player, but not so bad as to be denied a shot at development. After the visible improvement he displayed in the 2013 EuroBasket tournament and 2013 Las Vegas Summer league, he saw a marginalized role during the 2013-2014 season, so I would not expect him to waltz into a larger role next season either; especially after public declaration of ‘Win Now’ mode.
This is why Dorell Wright’s presence is so damaging for Claver. Wright has the desired skills and has the desired experience where Claver does not. Perhaps equally important, he is under contract for another season. The way I see it, Claver has potential to be a crisp dollar bill, but from where the Trail Blazers stand, they can either trade him for pennies or keep him for lint. Portland is understandably unwilling to use him since they already have a better fit. Again, it really is too bad.
It is time for the Trail Blazers to make a tough decision: Invest in him, or trade him. He could still contribute off the bench, but they could always use a couple second-rounders and some cap space too. Either option will set him free. I will, however, be supremely irritated, but not in the least bit surprised, if Claver is left to wallow in his own frustration for another NBA season. Keep an eye on him regardless, as he is a prime candidate for lateral movement on the trade block this offseason.