Blazers Reserve Profile: Joel Freeland

Joel Freeland is one of seven British-born players in the history of the NBA. He was drafted by the
Portland Trail Blazers with the 30th pick in the first round of 2006, the same draft which brought Lamarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Sergio Rodriguez to Rip City. From then to now has been a long journey for Freeland.
Growing up, Freeland’s sports passion was soccer. It wasn’t until an injury derailed his professional chances that he switched to basketball. But in a few short years on the hardwood,
Freeland began to garner interest from the British National Team for his play on the first-team English League’s Solent Stars.
At 19 years old, the 6-feet
11-inch Freeland was taken in the first round of the NBA draft, but the Blazers told him he needed to spend some more time in the European basketball leagues before his game was ready for prime time.
He spent the next two years in the top tier Spanish basketball league, Liga ABC. Following his capable efforts there, Freeland signed a large contract with Spain’s
Euroleague team, reportedly five years for 4.5 million euros. He continued to work on all aspects of his game, posting solid numbers of 13 points and 6 rebounds.
In the summer of 2012, the Blazers struggled with the decision of whether to rebuild or reload. One thing they desperately needed was
big men to come off the bench.
This need led to the drafting of Meyers Leonard with the 11th overall pick and signing their foreign asset, Freeland, to a three-year contract.
Freeland was fresh off playing for the British National Team in the 2012 Summer Olympics, where he averaged 14.8 points, 6.6 boards and 1.8 steals.
Freeland entered his rookie NBA season at 25 years old and much more experienced than he was on draft night. But his first year in the big leagues would not be an easy one. On a bench which some consider one of the worst in NBA history, Freeland was a footnote. Leonard, five years younger than Freeland, played most of the reserve minutes.
Freeland played in 51 games, but much of that time was garbage minutes or late in the season when injuries and poor play had ruined all chance of a playoff berth. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game. He also spent two games with the Developmental League Idaho Stampede.
In the summer of 2013 Freeland made the bold choice to stay in Portland and work on his game, as opposed to playing for the British team in international competition. A combination of work ethic and consistent improvement led to a solidified position in the Blazers rotation this year.
Freeland has played in every game of the 2013–14 campaign except one, which he missed due to a hip injury. He currently averages 3.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in almost 15 minutes per game.
In an interview with Trail Blazers Courtside, Freeland discusses finding a niche on this team and what he brings to the table, saying, “I had to figure out what my role was going to be on this team. I have the skill set to give the team what I’m giving them at the moment, which is energy, setting great picks, protecting the rim, running the floor and just being an all-around hustle guy.”
Freeland has done those things and has even more to offer. He has yet to put on display his long-range shooting, but the Blazers are winning, and Joel Freeland is contributing to those wins every night.