Nicolas Batum began the season with two notable accomplishments. The first was signing a new contract with Portland, worth around $46 million over the next four years. The second? Delivering justice in the Olympics to Juan Carlos Navarro and issuing a memorable quote: “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.”
While the Trail Blazers have slipped out of the playoff race, and with a difficult schedule ahead, will likely be a lottery team, the future is bright. Damian Lillard has helped the Trail Blazers immensely, and will likely win the Rookie of the Year award. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring, J.J. Hickson is rebounding the ball well, and Wesley Matthews helps stretch the floor. But the improved play of Batum has as much to do with optimism in Portland as anything else.
While he was left out of the All-Star game and was not mentioned at all in consideration, the second-best small forward in the Western Conference is Nicolas Batum - and that was true before Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto.
Batum is playing to the potential he showed when he was drafted five seasons ago. Whether it’s a chase-down block, a slick pass into the lane, coming off of a screen to knock down a jumper, or running the pick-and-roll, Batum is beginning to fit into the Trail Blazers offense like a duck in a pond.
Here are some of the remarkable things Batum has done this season:
- Nicolas Batum is the first Trail Blazer to record at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists since Rod Strickland (Feb. 15, 1995 at Phoenix). Since 1985-86, only 3 Portland players have met the following thresholds (20 pts, 10 reb, 12 ast) in a single game: Nicolas Batum (1x), Rod Strickland (1x) and Clyde Drexler (3x).
- Nicolas Batum posted a stat line of 11 Pts, 10 Ast, 5 Reb, 5 Stl, 5 Blk Sunday. He’s the first Portland player to reach those numbers in a game since 1973-74 season (first season in which steals and blocks were first official recorded). Only two other players in NBA history have done it. Jamaal Tinsley in 2001 and Julius Irving in 1979.
- In a loss against Washington, Batum had 12 points, 11 assists, and had 10 rebounds, his first triple-double on the season.
- Five days later, in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers, Batum scored 20 points, dished out 12 assists, and had 10 rebounds for his second triple-double on the season.
- Batum has only been held without a rebound once this season, in a game against Indiana.
- Batum is playing well against playoff teams. He is averaging 16 points a game, on 44.2 percent shooting on field goals, 40.1 percent on 3-point attempts, and 82.1 percent from the free throw line. He does the little things as well – 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
- Batum made a 3-point shot in 22 straight games.
- He missed one game due to a wrist injury, but has played with a splint on to cope with the pain.
- Batum is making good choices on shots, with the majority of his attempts coming in areas where he shoots best. He has attempted 167 mid-range shots against 176 at the rim, with 365 3-point attempts. That’s 77.4 percent of his shots coming from the most effective areas of the floor.
This first chart shows where his shot attempts are coming from:
The second shows his accuracy from each area:
Batum is having a wonderful season, one that is beautiful to behold in the middle of Lillard’s rookie campaign. While the 2012-13 season may not have resulted in a playoff berth for the young Trail Blazers team, the future is looking bright with Lillard, Batum and Aldridge around for the following two seasons.
Fly on Batman.