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How Waiting For Claver And Freeland Finally Paid Off For Portland

The last time Victor Claver held up a Portland Trail Blazers jersey was three years ago when they selected him in the 2009 NBA Draft. This time around the 6-foot-9 swing guard from Spain is in Portland to stay.
The last time Victor Claver held up a Portland Trail Blazers jersey was three years ago when they selected him in the 2009 NBA Draft. This time around the 6-foot-9 swing guard from Spain is in Portland to stay.

Petteri Koponen is probably somewhere in Finland wondering why his "draft and stash" time never came to fruition with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Back during the 2008 Las Vegas Summer League after the Blazers obtained Koponen in a draft day trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, who took the 6-foot-4 point guard 30th overall, Koponen had an impressive showing in Vegas complete with a 19 point outing against the Washington Wizards.

Many thought he would be a lock to survive the summer league cut and head into training camp with the Blazers.

Instead, the spot went to some kid named Nicolas Batum, who underperformed and actually thought he was on the next flight out of Vegas and back to France. In the end, Koponen got a pat on the back from Portland's front office and signed with Virtus Bologna where the Blazers monitored his development.

Oh, how times have changed.

Four years later, Batum is looking to get paid in full or dealt in a sign and trade to Minnesota as a restricted free agent and Koponen -- who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a second round pick last June -- recently signed a three-year deal with BC Khimki in the Russian League.

Now contrast Koponen's situation with Portland to that of Victor Claver and Joel Freeland and both the organization and fan base have a number of reasons to remain upbeat at the overall progression of finally getting both of these guys to the NBA and Portland. It very easily couldn't have come to this.

Knowing Freeland was drafted in 2006 and Claver in 2009, patience was as much a part of their development in Spain (Claver with Valencia and Freeland with Malaga) and the ACB League as it was in Portland that the constant in-season and offseason discussions between all respective sides would eventually pay off. With Claver officially signing on Wednesday and Freeland and Portland finalizing the buyout terms with Malaga, it's time to replace "draft and stash" with "hope and promise" of where the versatile swing guard and aggressive big man fit into Rip City's game plan moving into next season.

There is still a lot of unknowns here: the Batum situation will hopefully help resolve some of those mysteries. But for the most part, Portland can trust Claver will be a solid role player who can do a little bit of everything coming off of the bench. Freeland, however, can start in Portland and presents an impressive front-line playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.

One European scout on Freeland: "He will probably have some trouble guarding quicker and more athletic power forwards in the NBA, but Joel's game fits more as a center with his big frame, good hands, can face up or play back to the basket...He can hold his own down there."

Is now a good time to bring up their history with injuries?

Is now a good time to break down Claver's repeated foot troubles and how Freeland battled a jacked up ankle last season?

Moving right along -- always a touchy subject in Portland.

This isn't the first time analyzing and breaking down Claver and Freeland has turned into blog fodder and Twitter conversation from all around the world. It's just now, reality is starting to sit in that Portland isn't merely bringing one of these guys in to "see how they do", but are now committed -- seeds planted in the Kevin Pritchard days and cultivated in Neil Olshey era -- to ensuring these two young Euros are part of Portland's revamped roster.

It's not like Portland went down to the local 24 Hour Fitness and snatched up a Spanish dude and a Brit and are throwing them in the fire, praying they can play.

Claver and Freeland's basketball bios are filled with accolades that extend from basketball academies, early professional experience, intense overseas game situations, National Team pride and success and on throughout Eurocup and Euroleague competition.

No need to compare them to other European players who have come before them to the NBA and either sank or swam.

Sit back.

Let them play. Let them adjust and develop. Let them make mistakes. Let them impress and be themselves.

And let Portland show that -- either collectively or individually -- finally bringing Claver and Freeland to town is the right move at the right time.