“It’s an opportunity for me.”
Noah Vonleh, picked 9th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, is only 19 years old and is already on his second NBA team. On June 24, he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers from the Charlotte Hornets in a package deal for French small forward Nicolas Batum. However, Vonleh isn’t the typical ‘first round bust, let’s trade him for something’ type of player. In fact, Vonleh was the reason why Portland traded their highly-versatile swingman away; he was the jewel in this trade. Vonleh has been considered a potential-based player, who is expected to greatly develop over the course of the next few years. The 6’10” power forward from Indiana has been traded to Portland with a particular goal in mind. Neil Olshey has brought in a young player who he has confidence in to eventually replace arguably the best power forward Rip City has ever seen. Noah Vonleh is being depended on to one day become the next all-star power forward of Portland.
If there’s one thing that Blazers fans should know, it’s that Vonleh has unlimited potential. The kid has the skill-set made up of a combination of all 5 positions on the court. In fact, Vonleh played the point guard position in high school, honing him the perimeter skills that are rarely found in 6’10”, 240 pound big men. What helps contribute to any skill-set is natural athleticism, and Vonleh has that. With a 7’4″ wingspan and pair of remarkable 11.75-inch hands, Vonleh is practically a freak of nature. He’s quick on his feet, he’s got some hops, and his mid-range jumper is silky smooth, drawing comparisons to you-know-who. But let’s not go as far to say that his game is just like ol’ number 12’s. Vonleh has some major differences in his game with his extreme athleticism & prototype-style being two of the most noticeable ones.
If you watched any Trail Blazers summer league play over the last month or so, you know who Noah Vonleh is. If you don’t then you might have been watching the wrong team play. I’m not even kidding. Vonleh was straight ballin’ in the summer league, averaging 17 points & 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the field and maintaining an impressive 50% from 3. He was everywhere on the court for the hustle plays while showing off his hops with some serious elevation and detonation. This was good enough to earn him 2nd-Team All-NBA Summer League honors.
Despite the departure of Lamarcus Aldridge, we have a lot to be happy for at the PF position. Meyers Leonard began to show a lot of promise during the second half of last season, Ed Davis is a veteran big man whom Los Angeles didn’t want to give up, and I can confidently say that Noah Vonleh is one of the most promising potential players in the Association. That’s not a homer statement, either; I’ve believed this since his days wearing the number 1 in Indiana.
Vonleh now becomes my favorite Portland Trail Blazers prospect entering the 2015-2016 NBA Season. This season is going to be an exciting one, though any kind of playoff hopes are practically… ehh….. But when I say that it’s going to be exciting, I’m serious. What we’re bringing to the table entering the season is a squad of very, very young talent with tons and tons and tons of potential. This could be the year that we see 2, 3, maybe 4 guys start to develop into full-time starters, Vonleh being at the top of my list. His skill-set is one that NBA GM’s dream of, and I happen to believe we got him as a total value in that trade with Charlotte. The guy is a workhorse with a great attitude on & off the court. Having these kinds of professionals does wonders for a locker room. Need an example of the opposite? Take the Trail Blazers Time Machine back 12 years or so. We’re developing a young team of high-potential, high-ethic, highly-motivated players and centering them around a strong role model, on and off the court, in Damian Lillard. The video below is a great indicator on his humble, friendly attitude.
There is not a single player, aside from Chris Kaman, who I believe has reached their peek in their career. Out of everyone on this team, Lillard aside, Noah Vonleh has the biggest upside. I suppose it’s an opinion, but it might as well be a fact. He’s going to develop and improve every single year, and his head is in the right place to do that. I hate to bring the comparison up, but it took Aldridge a few years to find himself a spot in the NBA, and that lead to multiple all-star honors and some pretty nice contracts. I could see a similar situation with Vonleh. It may or may not be this year, but improvement will be inevitable, and that goal of becoming an elite NBA player come closer and closer.
The Charlotte Hornets, with these offseason additions, are in win now mode. They confirmed this by trading their 19-year-old 5-star prospect away. I’m not saying that Vonleh is going to come into the season on fire and be an instant all-star or anything. Hell, he might not even be a starter at any time over the course of this season. It could be up to 3 years or so until he really starts to reach some kind of strong starter material. With that said, let’s not forget that he is only 19. 3 years would be a 22-year-old Vonleh, younger than some of these rooks. However, let it be known that his game will take him as far as he wants it to go. I’ve said it maybe 3 or 4 times, but I’ll say it again; Noah Vonleh has unlimited potential. He has the skill-set of all 5 positions on the court. With proper coaching and a strong desire to improve, which Vonleh possesses, I would not be surprised to see him develop into a premier NBA forward. When that will be, I can’t tell you. He could surprise us all and show up big this year. It could be years and years before we see him reach that point. But oh man, if he starts to develop, we best not let him leave this Blazers squad, because he will be a true talent.
I’m not going to say he’s the next L-Train because, simply, he is not Lamarcus Aldridge. He is Noah Vonleh; a 19-year-old power forward from Indiana who has a prototype-style skill-set that excites me like no other. He’s a prospect who we cannot expect to be an instant all-star. He is a diamond that needs some refining. However, give Noah Vonleh the tools to become that perfectly cut diamond. Give him the support he needs to prove his worth in this league. Do this and you’ll eventually be rewarded with an incredible, multi-talented NBA athlete, ready to evolve into the next great power forward of the Portland Trail Blazers.
He’s not Lamarcus Aldridge. He’s Noah Vonleh.
And that’s a-okay with me.