The Orlando Magic have signed former Portland Trail Blazer Cliff Alexander to a training camp deal, along with five other players, according to a report on NBA.com. Although joining a team for training camp far from guarantees a player a spot on that team, it is reasonable to believe Alexander has a real shot at securing one of Orlando’s open roster spots. After all, the 20-year old earned a spot in Portland after impressing in training camp last year.
Alexander (#2, 6’8”, 245, 11/16/95) played in eight games last season during his rookie campaign with Portland, averaging 1.3 ppg. in 4.5 minpg. He also spent time with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Development League. Alexander, who was not drafted by an NBA franchise, played in 28 games (six starts) during his only season at the University of Kansas (2014-15), averaging 7.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg. and 1.32 blkpg. in 17.5 minpg.
Alexander came to the Blazers as an undrafted rookie, after eligibility issues surrounding a loan kept him out of the 2015 NCAA tournament, plummeting his draft stock. Various mock drafts had projected his selection in the late-first or early second-round prior to the incident, which you can read more about here if the following excerpt piques your interest.
On Aug. 25, 2014, a UCC filing was made in the state of Illinois under the name of Latillia Alexander of Chicago, Cliff Alexander’s mother. The filing is publicly accessible on the Illinois Secretary of State website. The securing party is listed as Ludus Capital of Delray Beach, Fla.
Among the types of financing extended by Ludus Capital, which has offices in Florida and New York: draft loans to potential high draft picks in the NBA and NFL. However, the loans are extended to athletes after they have declared for the draft. In August, Alexander was just starting his freshman year at Kansas.
Loans based on future earning potential can violate NCAA rules for student-athletes.
A bargain signing for Portland at the time, Alexander would sustain a bone bruise and tear cartilage in his left knee just before the 2015-16 NBA season began, leaving him on the outside looking in with respect to rotation minutes. Once healthy, he was unable to break out of his role as the 15th man while the Blazers experimented with different lineups involving better players. The Blazers waived him on July 7 to make room for free agent signing Festus Ezeli.
Despite his uneventful stint in Portland, Alexander has a few things going for him. He is physically tough, a rather strong rebounder, has a heavily muscled frame, and is still south of 21-years-old. That said, if he is going to make it in the NBA, he needs to do better against NBA length on offense—a challenge his size does not help—and improve his IQ on defense. There were reasons he did not play in Portland beyond fit and circumstance.
Overall, though, this is something to keep an eye on. Alexander can be solid with the right opportunity to grow. That opportunity could come in Orlando, behind guys like Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green. Best of luck, Cliff.