Friday, January 22, 2010

Nicolas Batum: Sky's The Limit

With the return of Nicolas Batum targeted for Monday's game against the Hornets, the Trail Blazers will be the fortunate recipients of one of the brightest young stars in the league that no one is talking about. Batum's reestablishment back onto the Trail Blazers roster provides the team with much needed shot blocking, three-point shooting, and perimeter defense. As a 20 year-old rookie, who looked lost in summer league, he averaged 1.3 blocks, shot 36.4% from downtown, and scored 6.6 points in only a 18.7 minutes game. In fact, it's not just I who am so high on Batum, as it was GM Kevin Pritchard who refused to include Batum in a deal which would have brought back Gerald "Crash" Wallace, who is a top candidate for the 2009-10 NBA Defensive Player of the Year at the half-way point of the season. What is it about Nic that has him as one of the Blazers' toughest assets to acquire for opposing teams?
First off, he passes the eye test. At 6'8", he is ideal size for the small forward, but what sets him apart from most is his 7-4 wingspan, which was the longest of any other small forward in the 2008 NBA Draft. Not only does he possess the athleticism to bring the Rose Garden fans out of their seats with posterization dunks or from-behind blocks, but he has the instincts to know when and how far to jump. Outside of Greg, Batum is the team's best defender as he can use his length to disrupt any position from point guard to small forward. We saw numerous times last year Coach Nate put Nic on quick point guards such as Tony Parker to slow him down as well as shooting assassins like shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Bottom line, Batum drew the oppositions best offensive weapon on a nightly basis and more times than not, held his own.
As great as his potential is on defense, his offense is not too far behind. Most scouting sites noted he couldn't hit a lick from the outside and was only effective from mid-range off of the pull-up jumper. Well, he shot nearly 37% from distance last year, including a game winner at home against the New Jersey Nets last season. I'm not sure I expect his shooting to improve too much, if at all this year, because with the severity of his shoulder injury, he wasn't able to shoot, so it will take him a while to get back into his shooting rhythm. With his ability to finish around the hoop, mainly dunking on people, if he can master the mid-range jumper off of the dribble, he'll be impossible to stop. If they play him tight, he can blow by and get into the paint or if they lay off of him, he'll stop on a dime and nail the short jumper. I really only noticed his mid-range jump shot on a couple of occasions, usually when his confidence was high.
For all the reasons mentioned above, he is a great player, but why is he the perfect piece to the Trail Blazers small forward puzzle? With the emergence of Jerryd Bayless turning into a scoring machine, along with superstar Brandon Roy, and the low-post scoring ability of LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland has enough scoring for the foreseeable future. Batum doesn't need to the ball in his hands to score or to be effective. He can score off of the fast break or on catch and shoots from the perimeter. What the team does need is defense, which is his M.O. There is such a plethora of high-octane offensive scoring wings in the NBA, Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Durant, and Joe Johnson just to name a few and it is imperative to have a player such as Batum who can devote all of his energy on the defensive side of the ball to hassle the opposition's highest scoring option. The only thing preventing Batum from greatness is time. Give him time to progress and develop and KP will not regret not giving up Batum in any trade packages.
Finally, what is Nicolas Batum's potential? Personally, he reminds me the most of Scottie Pippen. He'll definitely have to work on his shooting to be on Pip's level, but defensively, there is no doubt that Batum will reach that level. The incredible thing about Nic is that he is still so young, 21, and so raw. I don't think he'll be as good as Scottie, because of Pip's ability to handle the ball, create, and play the point guard with such ease and fluidity, something I doubt Batum can do at his level. Nic is a decent ball handler, but court vision is an attribute not up to par on Pippen's level. When it is all said and done, Batum will be ranked somewhere below Scottie Pippen but above another player he is reminiscent of in Tayshaun Prince. He should have no problems being a multiple All-Star. You may be sitting there, reading this thinking this guy is crazy! But remember, Batum started in 76 games for a team that won 54 games, the 5th most in franchise history at only age 20. It takes an incredible basketball IQ to accomplish that, which is why, along with his freakish athletic gifts, I believe he'll achieve greatness. Portland definitely got a steal late in the 2008 Draft.


  1. Totally 100% agree. He could be the next Pippen.

  2. My only concern is he may peak right after Roy starts to decline..I hope this core and have at least a couple seasons of prime ball.