Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Nicolas Batum

After missing the team's first 45 games of the season due to shoulder surgery, it was questionable just how much progression Nicolas Batum could make out of a shortened season. It didn't take long for the second year forward from France to let it be known that he wasn't satisfied with his rookie production. In just his second game back from injury, Batum showed off a new and improved offensive repertoire, which included a quicker release on a more accurate jump shot as well as the ability to shoot off the dribble. Along with being the team's most suffocating perimeter defender and a highlight real waiting to happen with his patented chase-down blocks, Batum saw his offensive numbers spike up all across the board in 2010. His points nearly doubled from 5.4 to 10.1, he lead the team in three-point percentage at 40.9%, shot 84.3% from the foul line, and improved his field goal shooting nearly 7% from .446 to .519. He has already showing signs of becoming the next great small forward in this league, but what is most vital to achieving that goal this summer?
  1. Gain Weight
  2. Along with being the team's top wing defender, Batum is also the most versatile. Outside of guarding centers, he has proven to be capable of guarding an array of players, from the extensive 7'0" Dirk Nowitzki to the accelerated 6'0" Chris Paul. Although the spectrum of players he's able to shut down on a nightly basis is immense, there is one prototype which gives Batum fits, the strong, bulkier small forwards of the league. Guys such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony use their size and brute strength to over match Batum's 6'8", 210 lb. frame.
    Batum's God-given wingspan of 88 inches, normally used to disrupt and suffocate his prey, is taken out of the equation when trying to guard players of over 230 lbs., because of their ability to do all of their damage down low on the blocks and muscle their way to the hoop and/or the foul line. A player everyone compares Batum's potential to, Scottie Pippen, had the same physical attributes as Nico (6'8" tall, 87 inch wingspan), except he played around 225 lbs. To allow these comparisons to come to fruition, Mr. Batum should become friends with the weight room this summer as soon as his shoulder heals up 100%.
  3. Ball Handling
  4. With fellow Frenchman Tony Parker missing out of last year's action with the French national team, Nico was able to run the show as the lead guard for most of the summer, enhancing his already multifaceted game to take on the role as point-forward. Portland didn't implement too many sets with Batum handling the ball, probably due to him missing nearly five months of action and wanted to get him settled in before throwing too much his way, but the flashes of his skill level were clearly evident, especially on the break. As was the case last year, Parker will not participate this summer at the World Championships, leaving the majority of the point guard duties up to Nicolas once more. Adding another summer of full-time ball handling under his belt, primarily against great competition, could really vault Batum into the stratosphere and give Coach McMillan multiple lineup options with his newly found ability to play the point for stretches during the game.

Considering the amount of lethal scorers in the NBA at the small forward position, players of Batum's defensive caliber are at a premium and if he is able to put on muscle, it gives the Trail Blazers an answer to all of the aforementioned scorers. Not only would he be able to stymie them defensively, but if he can craft his ball handling skills, it will force them to defend him on a regular basis.

1 comment:

  1. Nailed it. Right now, Batum has no mid-range game at all. He's either dunking or hitting 3s. An improved handle will change that.