With LaMarcus Aldridge out for possibly the next few games; a very large opportunity presents itself for one of the rookie bigs to step in and show their mettle.
Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland were brought in under very different circumstances with different expectations laid at their feet. Neither has looked particularly impressive, while there have been some well, highlights, there have been more lost defensive assignments, missed rebounds, and a lack of aggressive play than anything else. Typically you would expect that type of hesitance and learning curve from a 20 year rookie; and in fact Leonard has looked much like many other rookie big men before him. What has been the most disappointing concerning his development is his lack of commitment to high energy play. Making a mistake is one thing, making that mistake at half speed just exacerbates the issue. With his size and athleticism he should be all over the place effecting shots, pulling down rebounds, and clogging the lane. With Aldridge down for possibly the next few games Leonard has an opportunity and possibly a longer leash to show he's grown and matured in the first quarter of the NBA season by going all out on mistakes and successes, or he could look lost and play half speed and find himself buried further down the bench by the time Aldridge returns.
Joel Freeland was trumpeted as a solid pro with tons of top league experience, who should make the transition to the NBA game incredibly smooth. Whoever came up with that assessment should hope they aren't paid on commission. While there have been some bright spots, his first quarter season in the NBA has been mired what looks to be confidence and role issues. He seems to have the attitude and mind set to play the pivot very effectively, yet it has only translated in less than a handful of games. A solid midrange game, an array of post moves, and heady rebounder- sounds like the remedy for what currently ails the Blazers. However, that Joel Freeland has only made an appearance 2-3 times this season, the rest of the time they've only seen what looks to be Josh McRoberts trapped in Joel Freeland's body. Aldridge's rolled ankle opens the door for Freeland to grab hold of some serious (read: relevant) minutes going forward.
The player with the most to gain here, potentially, isn't Leonard or Freeland . Aldridge is currently playing 38.1 minutes per game. Going through the top 20 players in the NBA only two other players who would be considered bigs are listed (David Lee and Al Horford) and neither of those players are leaned on as much as Aldridge is.
Ultimately this injury/opportunity could be nothing in the grand scheme of things, maybe neither player takes advantage of this chance, or Coach Stotts opts to go with veteran Jared Jeffries and a small ball line-up. If Freeland or Leonard want a chance to show that they're learning/growing and a chance to see the court more- there seems to be no time like the present.
49 votes total