The Blazers announced today that they have assigned Victor Claver and Will Barton to the Idaho Stampede. This isn’t a surprising move by any means, and it was only a matter of time before Neil Olshey began to make use of the D-League to develop some of the team’s rookies.
One of the most significant yet under-the-radar changes the Blazers have made since last season was the purchasing of the Stampede as the exclusive affiliate of the Blazers after it was previously shared with the Jazz and Nuggets, and installing head coach Michael Peck to run the same playbook Terry Stotts uses in Portland. The Blazers currently have no open roster spots, so they likely won’t make use of the D-League as much as some other teams from the standpoint of calling up unknown talent, but this kind of organizational continuity and consistency is one of the little things that have impressed about the team’s rolling out of the Neil Olshey era.
Claver has barely played for the Blazers and spent most of the season on the inactive list. Sending him to the D-League makes sense, since he can’t get on the floor in Portland thus far. Barton has appeared in 16 games, including a breakout performance against the Pistons on November 26 in which he scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Since the start of the season, when Stotts gave almost no time to Barton, Claver, or Joel Freeland, he has started to make a point of playing at least one of the three rookies per night for extended minutes.
It will be interesting to see how long Claver and Barton stay in Idaho. The NBA recently relaxed its rules on how often teams can shuffle its players between the NBA and D-League, and teams like the Spurs and Warriors have taken advantage of the newfound freedom. Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside had an interesting piece this week detailing how teams are timing their D-League assignments based on their travel schedule. Given that the Blazers just returned from a seven-game road trip in which both Claver and Barton played, it doesn’t seem that that’s what they’re doing so far, although part of that may be due to the lack of playoff-caliber opponents they played. With a long stretch of home and west-coast games and several days off between games coming up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Claver and Barton shuffled back and forth frequently over the rest of the month to allow them to log minutes in the D-League while still being available for games when Stotts feels like using them.
The expanded use of the D-League is a positive development for the NBA going forward, and it’s great to see Olshey taking advantage of the valuable resource he has at his disposal. The biggest hurdle still remaining in the integration of the D-League into the NBA’s fabric is a system similar to Major League Baseball, allowing teams with full rosters to call up players after they send others down. Certainly Coby Karl would be at least worth a look right now as a backup point guard considering how bad Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price have been.