On Tuesday morning, Portland Trail Blazers Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan appeared on TrailBlazers.TV's "Up and Adam," hosted by Adam Bjaranson, to discuss his recent trip to Europe to scout draft prospects and check in on the progress of Portland's international players. Here's a link to the video.
Buchanan gave rundowns on 2009 draft pick Victor Claver, 2006 draft pick Joel Freeland and 2007 draft pick Petteri Koponen, noting that he was able to watch Claver and Freeland play in person, but was unable to see Koponen on this trip. He opened by saying that both Claver and Freelance played "extremely well the nights I was there. I was able to meet with them and they were obviously very excited because of how they played that night."
Buchanan did not make it seem like any of the three players will be making the jump to the NBA in the immediate short-term. From a talent and desire perspective, Buchanan stated that Claver was probably the most likely to head to the NBA at some point. Freeland, he said, is quite comfortable with his salary and playing time and situation in Spain for the time being. Regarding Koponen, he raised questions about his position at the NBA level.
"Victor, especially, is playing well right now. They had a coaching change with their team about a month ago. I think the game I was at was about his third game since they'd made the coaching change, and the new coach has come in and re-defined [Claver's] role. He's become a much more aggressive, much more assertive player offensively. For us, we like to see that. His team has played 10 games with the new coach, and they're 9-1, they've won six games in a row in the ACB, and Victor was just named Player of the Month for December in the ACB."
"So, Victor, we've seen him make some growth, make some progress in his development. In the past, he's always been a guy that's blended in. He's always been the youngest guy on the team, both with Valencia and with the Spanish National Team. So, he's kind of like, 'I just want to fit in. I don't want to step on anybody's toes.' Which is respectable and commendable for a young player. But at the same time you want to see a guy develop a little bit more of a hunger, to put his stamp on a game, and I think we're starting to see that from Victor right now. He's shooting the ball well, he's being more aggressive attacking the basket, doing a good job defending."
"We see a lot of things from him that we saw from [Nicolas Batum] playing, before we drafted Nic. Nic was a guy who kind of fed off better players, but his last year before he entered the draft he started to become a more assertive player. So we're hoping that Victor takes that same curve that Nic took, and we're really excited about the direction he's making."
"Victor has tasted more high-level international play [than Freeland], playing with the Spanish National Team, and he's played against other NBA players more than Joel has. I think Victor thinks 'I'm good enough to play at that level.' Those international guys, that's a big step for them, just for their self-confidence, to believe that they belong. Rudy [Fernandez] always had that, Rudy had that at age 16. But Victor and Joel are a little different. I think long-term both those guys view themselves, envision themselves playing in the NBA. I think Victor is a little more hungry to come over than Joel is right now, both their situation and financial impact, their age, things like that, all factor in."
"Both [Claver and Freeland] follow our team, they know what's going on with our team... Victor obviously follows us because of Rudy."
"Joel Freeland is playing extremely well for his team as well. Both Joel's team and Victor's team are kind of middle of the pack -- Victor's team is making a little bit of a jump -- but Joel's team is kind of middle of the pack in the ACB. He's their starting center, plays good minutes, very efficient player, high field goal percentage, low mistake guy. He's really ... his progress has been kind of gradual."
"He's one of the top paid big men in all of Europe. For us, that presents a challenge bringing him over because he's in a great situation. I mean, he lives in Malaga, Spain, which is a beautiful place to live, he's got a major role on his team, he's making good money over there, so he's kind of in a little bit of a comfort zone."
"Joel Freeland is now 23, Victor just turned 22, so those guys are still very young players. We drafted both those guys when they were 19, so we've been able to see them develop. If they were in the States, they'd be going through their upperclassmen years of college. So we're excited about both of those two guys."
"In talking with Joel, Joel is in a very comfortable place. I think, long-term, he does want to be in the NBA. He's having success right now and he likes that. He was a late-bloomer so he's now starting to experience some success. I think he's probably not as close as Victor is to wanting to come over."
"Joel got to be somewhat close to Greg [Oden] when he came over to play Summer League with us, so he's always asking me how Greg is doing."
"Petteri had an injury during the offseason that he's come back from. He's just now healthy. He recently had a game [where] he had 36 points about 10 days ago, in an overtime game."
"Of the three guys we have playing over there, if there's one guy that would swim across the Atlantic to play for us, it's Petteri. He came over and played Summer League for us, loved Portland, had a great experience, and he's very hungry to come over here. He went from playing in Finland and now he's in Italy, and I think he wants to make that jump. For us, it's trying to figure out when would be the right time to take a look at bringing him over."
"Right now, he's playing more off the ball than at the point guard spot, and we view him more as a point guard, he's going to have to be a point guard at our level, just because of his size and defensively. So, obviously, him right now, his role on his team is different than what we'd need him to be for us. That can make for a little bit of a challenge in evaluating a player."
"Petteri is becoming an excellent shooter over there, so that's probably not going to be what his role is necessarily going to be for us. So trying to figure out when is the right time to look at bring him over... but he's obviously blossomed into a very good European player."