Unicaja Malaga and Great Britain forward/centre Joel Freeland has agreed to stay in Spain instead of dipping his toes into the NBA and suiting up for the Portland Trailblazers.
In the six years since he was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers, Freeland has matured his game in Spain playing for Gran Canaria and then for Unicaja, he has developed a style for himself that is more suited to the game-play of the ACB, and most notably, European basketball, which is very different to the NBA.
European hoops is much more tactical, very fundamental and more team-orientated than the fast-paced, glitz-and-glamour, one-on-one style game of the NBA that we have all come to appreciate over the years. In the NBA, you expect Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Derrick Rose to lead their respective teams in scoring, or for Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul or Steve Nash to dish out near double-digits in assists each night.
In Europe, it’s about the team, it’s mainly about ball movement and working with eachother to score. Not saying the NBA doesn’t do that, but it’s far more evident in European play, regardless of whether it’s the Euroleague, Eurocup, Eurochallenge or the domestic leagues in Spain, Greece, Germany or France.
Freeland is also a near rock-solid starter in Malaga, a premier team in the ACB who makes regular Euroleague appearances, and averages great numbers on both ends of the basketball court. So far, Freeland is reaching 19 points a contest in the ACB and has the second highest statistical rating in Spain behind Alicante’s Kaloyan Ivanov.
The Surrey-born big was expected to move to the NBA and play for Portland after the Olympics, a move that might of ruined his career, he would of lost his starting place that he had in Malaga, and would have to make way for LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and to much lesser extent, the injury-prone Greg Oden. Freeland’s time in Portland would be spent watching on the bench, leaving him little time to adapt his style of play to the Blazers franchise.
The European way of play can be done in the league, but only when there is a weakness at the spot you play at. Pau and Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nicolas Batum, Luol Deng and for a brief time, Rudy Fernandez were examples of that.
Freeland is also expected to be one of the leaders for Great Britain when they host the London 2012 Olympic Games, this timing of this move is good news for Great Britain fans as Joel’s mind can be focused on representing his country as one of its leaders along with Deng at the summer Games instead of wondering where he would end up after the gold medal game on August 12th.
This is by no means a statement that Freeland can’t cut it in the NBA, I think he could, but only if given the chance. He has a good thing going on in Malaga, and Freeland’s decision to stay with Unicaja was by far the correct one.
It is rumoured that Freeland would have to pay 2.4 million euros for a buyout should he want to play in the States or anyone else in Europe.