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When the Portland Trail Blazers shipped Petteri “The Hostage” Koponen to Dallas and drafted guard Nolan Smith from Duke, I was concerned acting GM Chad Buchanan was ignoring our advice of holding hostages overseas and acquiring veteran assets. However, after yesterday’s news conference where Raymond Felton, Nolan Smith, and Jon Diebler were announced to the Rose City, I am confident that Buchanan and the Blazers are finally making wise, calculated personnel decision that can help the Blazers be real contenders in the Western Conference.
The first example of the Blazers’ front office maturation is when Buchanan defended the selection of Smith over rebounding behemoth Kenneth Faried. Buchanan explained how the Blazers plan to acquire a backup power forward and/or center through free agency, as they believe there is a wealth of experience at those positions (as opposed to the dearth of point guards available). This statement proved once and for all that Buchanan is not David Kahn, a man who will take point guards because point guards make him happy; rather, the Blazers acting GM realized filling gaps in a team’s roster is often better served through free agency and trades.
The second example of the Blazers’ front office growth is through their likely decision to send second round draft pick Jon Diebler to play in Europe for a season to gain experience. The Blazers realize Diebler, a sharpshooter from Ohio State who was arguably the best spot up shooter in the draft, would not get much playing time this year. Despite Diebler’s uncanny accuracy from long range, the Blazers need him to become a more experienced, complete player in order to play a legitimate three point specialist role, like James Jones and Kyle Korver. Diebler can hit an open shot, but Jones and Korver have become experts in finding open space, moving without the ball, and catching and shooting from any spot on the floor. The only way to hone those skills is through repetition and game experience, something Diebler would not get in Portland this year.
Therefore, the answer for Diebler is the same as it was for Claver, Freeland, and formerly Koponen: keep them hostage until they can become key contributors to the Blazers. Joel Freeland is the perfect example of this hostage method. Just today (insert link), Freeland told a Spanish journalist that he believes he will be ready to come to the Blazers next season. The Blazers are not rebuilding anymore—we need to remember that. This is a team that needs to be surgical with every personnel move. We can’t bank on potential anymore; instead, we need to wait to add a player to the Blazers roster until a player has met his potential.
Jon Diebler could be the three point assassin we need to win a championship. But, let’s force him to get minutes and improve abroad so he can become that player for the Blazers. Being held hostage may be the best thing for Diebler and the Blazers—it will force him to shed his potential and become a baller.
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