The 2013-14 NBA season was one that Victor Claver would like to put in the past. After playing in 49 games (even starting in 16) in the 2012-13 season, Claver struggled to find his spot in the rotation last season. Appearing in only 21 games, Claver logged a total of 186 minutes, averaging 2.2 points and 1.9 rebounds. The 6′ 9″ hybrid forward was left searching for why he fell out of favor.
There are a few reasons why Claver saw his minutes diminish. In 2012-13, the Trail Blazers were not a competitive team. They gave their young, undeveloped players more playing time to help them learn the game at a faster pace. Claver was one that benefited from the poor performing team. Entering last season, Claver must have hoped he would continue to get significant playing time. He had a great summer, capped off by his performance at EuroBasket 2013. His team lost their last 13 games of the season the previous year and were dubbed to be in the middle of another rebuilding process. But another full year of rebuilding wasn’t in the cards for the Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers’ successful season was great for the team and the city. They landed back in the playoffs and were one of the surprise teams in the league. Claver, however, did not benefit from the team’s new found success. He fell deeper and deeper in the depth chart and seemingly lost the eye of head coach Terry Stotts.
The addition of Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright created another problem for Claver. Robinson is energetic and more athletic at the power forward position, and Wright is a better shooter and ball handler at the small forward position. As a hybrid forward, Claver was sent down a notch in both positions.
Even though Claver spent most of last season in street clothes, off the active roster, his home country named him to their roster. With the 2014 FIBA World Cup set to start later this summer, the Spanish national team will lean on Claver to help back up Pau Gasol. Claver had a fantastic outing during EuroBasket 2013 last summer where he averaged 20.4 minutes over 11 games and contributed 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Prior to the additions and successes Portland experienced in 2013-14, those numbers were supposed to thrust Claver into more playing time with the Trail Blazers.
Spain coach Juan Antonio Orenga believes in Claver’s game and will have him contribute to the national team. Orenga was quoted yesterday, saying:
“Last year (at the EuroBasket), he responded without playing many minutes (in Portland) and we know that he is healthy and eager to play well. I trust that he will do a repeat of last year, and he will have grown up as a player thanks to a lot of individual work done during the year”
I agree that Claver will probably have a decent outing at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He will be among his fellow Spanish teammates and should see the floor. I’m not sure if Claver’s stint with the Trail Blazers is coming to a close, but I’d like to see him get one more chance. With their limited free agency moves, the Trail Blazers will rely on their roster from last year. Claver’s best off-season chance to prove that he deserves a spot in the regular rotation is to play exceptionally during the World Cup.