Portland Trail Blazersí Top Three choices at center

10/4/12 in NBA   |   IvanRogers   |   1352 respect

There’s been tight competition at the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting center, with the rest of the starting lineup: LaMarcus Aldridge (power forward), Nicolas Batum (small forward), Damian Lillard (point guard) and Wesley Matthews (off guard) already making the cut. Several media reports surfaced during September, citing Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts’ decision to start 24-year-old J.J. Hickson at center. However, Terry Stotts back-tracked on that decision on Monday, stating he hadn’t yet finalized his starting center yet.
 
“I don't know who is going to start at center on October 31," said Terry Stotts. "That's why you have training camp, that's why you compete for minutes, that's why you compete for a starting position."
 
However, we know three other big bodies on the Portland Trail Blazers’ roster who may think otherwise. Enter Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard and J.J. Hickson. All expressed their burning desire to start at Portland Trail Blazers’ vacant center spot, during Monday’s media day.
 
So what to these three candidates for starting center bring to the game? Let’s have a brief overview of the top three choices.
 
  • J.J. Hickson
The fifth-year pro J.J. Hickson’s definitely got advantage of NBA experience over the other starting center candidates and he is the sole returning member of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2011 roster. Since the Portland Trail Blaizers claimed him off waivers from the Sacramento Kings, J.J. Hickson has played 19 games for the team. But during those performances, J.J. Hickson has showcased remarkable offensive skills, averaging 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds.
 
However, the Portland Trail Blazers’ main concern with J.J. Hickson will be his consistency on the defense. Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey stated that the prospect of using J.J. Hickson on four rather than five presented “unique” possibilities due to his toughness and “great center of gravity.”
 
  • Meyers Leonard
The 20-year-old rookie Meyers Leonard (11th overall in 2012 NBA Drafts) was drafted out of University of Illinois by the Trail Blazers after his sophomore year (which was the highlight of his collegiate career). Up until now Meyers Leonard’s been humble about his prospects of starting at center this season.
 
"I wouldn't jump the gun,” state Meyers Leonard. “It’s all about who wants to come in and work the hardest, learn and shows they care the most. (However) if the opportunity presents itself, I'm a competitor.”
 
While Neil Olshey acknowledged Meyers Leonard’s ball handling skills, jumpers and accuracy from the free-throw line, he expressed concern over the players’ lack of experience during his freshman year.
 
But Terry Stotts hasn’t run him out of the competition just yet.
 
"Meyers is going to be a contributor no question," claimed Terry Stotts. "He's played very well, his offense is better than I expected.”
 
  • Joel Freeland
Portland Trail Blazers British import Joel Freeland too is new to the scene but was highly regarded in Spain's ACB league, playing Unicaja Malaga during the 2009-2011 seasons. But while Joel Freeland may be up for any task and has shown promise on the offense, he displayed a short lack of defending skills during his Olympics run.
 
Terry Stotts claimed he was still absorbing Joel Freeland’s talent after witnessing him on court for eth first time during Portland Trail Blazers’ voluntary workouts that took place in September.
 
Neil Olshey described Joel Freeland as an interesting piece who can swing both ways at the four and the five,” but was till rusty to the way of the NBA games.
 
I'm going to do what I can to solidify that (starting center prospect),” stated Joel Freeland. “All I can do is play the way I play, play the way I know, learn from everybody around me.”
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