Meet Noah Vonleh, newest member of the Trail Blazers


The Portland Trail Blazers made the biggest move of the off-season (so far) by trading veteran wing Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets for forward Noah Vonleh and guard Gerald Henderson. For those outside the Trail Blazers front office, the move was relatively unexpected, but the opportunity presented itself, and Portland moved quickly.

As with every off-season, we knew there would be a fair share of new faces on the Trail Blazers’ roster; however, I don’t think anyone assumed we’d see these new faces, especially this early into the summer. But, that’s the business of the NBA, so let’s meet one of our new Trail Blazers, Vonleh!

Who is Noah Vonleh?

Vonleh was the ninth pick in the 2014 NBA draft out of Indiana, and this season, he’ll be entering his second year in the league.

In college, Vonleh didn’t dominate. If I remember correctly, he was very passive and didn’t take over many games. In fact, he only averaged 11.3 points per game in his one year with the Hoosiers. Despite the low scoring numbers, Vonleh was a solid rebounder in college, averaging 9.0 rebounds per game.

At 6-10, 240 lbs, Vonleh isn’t an outright imposing player in the NBA, but his athleticism, strength, and explosiveness give him versatility to bang with seven-footers on the glass and protect the rim in one-on-one situations.

Vonleh is only 19 years old, which might be his best quality. We all love “potential” and “upside,” don’t we?

How good is he?

Honestly, right now, Vonleh is not reliably good. Last season, he only appeared in 25 games, and Steve Clifford couldn’t trust him to play meaningful minutes on a nightly basis. A sports hernia in training camp sidelined him for two months, after which rotation had already been established for the playoff-chasing Hornets.

With that said, Vonleh is so talented. He crashes the glass with the best of them. In certain situations, he can get his own shot and score, which is something the Trail Blazers need to take the pressure off of Damian Lillard.

There is so much time and so much room for improvement here. Charlotte was the worst place for Vonleh to be last season. With a lot of playing time, I think Vonleh would have developed more rapidly, but because the Hornets’ frontcourt, with Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, and Jason Maxiell, was so crowded, Vonleh didn’t get many minutes.

Toward the end of the season, I think we got a little bit of a taste of how good Vonleh can be. In the last five games of the season, Vonleh played more than 20 minutes in every game, which never happened in his previous 20 appearances. In those games, Vonleh averaged 7.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game.

Not too shabby.


As I mentioned, Vonleh’s strengths right now are his rebounding skills and tenacity on the glass. You can call it “motor” or whatever, but Vonleh is a skilled rebounder. As his body fills out and he gets stronger, I expect Vonleh to become one of the best rebounders at power forward in the league.

While we haven’t seen much more than Vonleh’s rebounding in the NBA, Vonleh also has the ability to knock down an outside jumper and take players off the dribble from the elbow. He’s no LaMarcus Aldridge, but Vonleh has a smooth stroke.


Right now, Vonleh has three main weaknesses:

  • Weak post moves

Vonleh hasn’t shown that he can be a reliable post scorer or even get to his own shot out of the post. With the way the league is going and Vonleh’s face-up skills, it’s not that big of a deal, but he needs to improve his scoring in the post.

  • Doesn’t create for teammates

As a big man, Vonleh shouldn’t be distributing more than an assist or two per night, but even that was a stretch for Vonleh last season. In college, Vonleh wasn’t any better, averaging 0.6 assists per game.

  •  Feel for the game 

For most of last season, Vonleh just seemed a step slow. The fact that he was a top-1o pick that couldn’t get into the rotation on a bad team is a great indicator of where he was last season. Hopefully, with the Trail Blazers’ structure and organization, Vonleh can take his mental game to new heights as well.

How good could he be?

Out of college, a lot of people said Vonleh could be the next Chris Bosh.

Right now, I think that’s a possibility. I don’t see Vonleh ever being a max player or franchise cornerstone like Bosh is in Miami, but Vonleh has a very similar frame and skill set to Bosh. Where Bosh is a pure scorer, though, Vonleh is a better rebounder. That’s the main difference I see in Vonleh’s game that Bosh wasn’t great at, initially.

What’s his role for the Trail Blazers?

With the Trail Blazers, Vonleh could end up backing up Aldridge (if Aldridge re-signs) or he could end up battling Meyers Leonard for the starting power forward spot.

To me, Vonleh needs to be the energy guy and tone-setting forward. I love the possibility of the Lillard-Vonleh pick-and-roll/pop with Vonleh popping for an open jumper or rolling to the rim for a lob. With a gifted point guard like Lillard, Vonleh’s rolls to the rim should be open. If he can learn how to score after catching the ball in the paint with a floater, midrange jumper, or by attacking the rim, Vonleh will have a very good career in Portland.

Terry Stotts generally prefers not to play young players, but I don’t know if he’s going to have any choice. Vonleh needs playing time to develop, and Portland desperately needs Vonleh to step up if the playoffs are still on the table for the next few years.

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