Trade Nicolas Batum?

As the post-post-season discussion has progressed I've read an increasing number of comments--main page and sidebar both--indicating people are amenable to trading last year's near-untouchable rumor magnet, Nicolas Batum.  Batum was speculated upon as a key piece in a Gerald Wallace deal for the last couple summers.  He's also been mentioned frequently in the same sentence as Steve Nash.  As mentioned in our 2010-11 Roster Rundown, Batum had a mediocre season for the Blazers.  He neither regressed nor flat-lined but you had to dig to see his progress.  Coupled with the Wallace acquisition, that performance has opened the door to the new wave of trade talk.

Whenever we talk trades I always mention that you can't make a firm judgment considered any player in isolation.  The test of a trade isn't what you're losing but what you're gaining.  Without those names on the other side of the ledger the discussion is meaningless.  Based on the informal (read: off-record and don't hold me to this forever) discussions I've had since the season ended I'm fairly certain that the following are true:

  • The Blazers don't look as dimly on Batum's season or place as the folks in the general public who would like to trade him.  He's young, he's cheap, he defends, the Blazers are rightfully wary of injuries and concerned about depth, and at certain moments the guy looks transcendent...every bit as good as some stars in this league.  The only thing separating him from the "amazing" label is consistency.  Some of that may yet come with time.  He's still valued highly.
  • Nevertheless this season's developments have made Batum more trade-able than he was for the last two years.  The answer isn't an automatic "no" anymore.  

Given those isolated snapshots of his status we're left to guess at the bar that must be cleared in order for Batum to be moved.  That's the discussion I'd like to have today.  I'm opening the floor but first, my best guess:

  1. Nobody and nothing in this year's draft will get it done.  The field is weak and the Blazers don't need to reset with a rookie, working their way through a growth curve that Batum himself has already gone through.
  2. The player in question would either need to be a firm starter or at least a productive sixth man, especially since Batum would almost certainly have to be packaged with a more expensive player in order to make salaries work for a trade.  All of Portland's more expensive players fill significant roles, as does Batum.  The Blazers will need a player of gravity in order for the deal to make sense.
  3. Having already given away most of their youth and depth on paper, the Blazers cannot afford to make a trade for the next two years alone.  Batum could play for another decade in theory.  An aging player, even a starter, isn't a smart exchange.  Nobody would could make an instant championship difference will be available for a package with Batum as the centerpiece.  If rings aren't involved, why not go with the longer-term prospect?

If Batum is to be traded, I'm not sure we've heard the correct name run through the rumor mill yet.  But what say you?  Where is your personal bar for moving him, where do you think the Blazers' bar is, and why?  Have at it below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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