Much like life, these last couple years for the Blazers have been a roller-coaster...
...and I wouldn't have it any other way.
We've had some high highs --- like Brandon Roy's ridiculous 4th quarter of Game 4 in the playoffs; LMA's recent game-winner; and Elliott Williams's coming out party --- and we've had some low lows --- pretty much anything having to do with Brandon Roy after that; the whole Greg Oden situation; the recent health scares of Elliot Williams (shoulder), Nicolas Batum (shoulder & knee), and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip).
However, this is the perfect, opportune time to start a rebuild (or re-tool on the fly if you prefer that term/ way of thinking). Right now, we only have a handful of guys on guaranteed contracts next year; we have several fantastic top-15 picks in the upcoming deep draft; we have an opportunity to hold onto a fantastic backup for a reasonable price in JJ Hickson; and we're about to have a [$#!%]ton of money to spend on free-agents.
There's only one thing that could possibly temper my outrageous expectation for this team's future, and that's the re-signing of Nicolas Batum.
Let me start off by saying that Nicolas Batum is a fantastic player[!]... once in a while.
Currently, among small forwards, he has:
- the 7th best Player Efficiency Rating [PER] in the league (17.35); 76th best overall (LMA has a 22.78)
- the 7th best true shooting percentage (.575); 39th overall (Manu Ginobili has a .659)
- the 8th highest estimated wins added (5.8); 52nd overall (Kevin Love has a 14.9)
- the 8th highest value added (174.2); 52nd overall (Andrew Bynum is a 355.6)
all while putting up 14 points/ 1.3 assists/ and 4.6 rebounds per game. However, he also has:
- the 19th highest usage rate of small forwards (18.6); 146th overall (Lou Williams has a 26.3)
- the 32nd best rebounding rate (8.8); 172nd overall (Aaron Gray has a 20.2)
- the 33rd best turnover ratio (10.1); 121st overall (Steve Novak has a 5.5)
- the 50th best assist ratio (8.9); 252nd overall (Andre Igoudala has a 29.3)
Those are just a couple stats, with his placement at his position (SF) and overall in the league, and then an example of another player in the league who's not the highest in that statistic.
The point being- I think that Nicolas Batum is a (somewhat-easily) replaceable player. He's about to get off his rookie contract, where he makes $2.15M a year, and he'll be making closer to $8M on his new contract. He was a GREAT value over these last couple years, but now that we're about to pony up nearly four times the amount, per year, of what he's currently making for similar production over the next couple years, I ask, 'Is he worth it?'
(I'm asking YOU a question)
I'd have to argue that he's not. If it came down to paying Nicolas Batum $8-10M a year or letting him walk to another team like the San Antonio Spurs, I say let him walk. If we're talking about doing a REAL rebuild, or re-tooling on the fly, then $8M a year for Batum's services is just not a great value.
Remember: There are only 5 starting spots on this Blazers squad. The only one locked up is LMA at the 4.
Do we really want Nic to be a lock at the 3 for the next 4 years?
Is this not the Wesley Matthews signing all over again?
The fact is, Wesley Matthews is a below average starting 2-Guard in the league, and Nicolas Batum is an above-average starting Small Forward in the league, but not by much. In some categories, he's in the top third of all SFs, and in others, he's in the bottom third.
A team's makeup is of the utmost importance in this league, and how we are currently constructed is obviously not working out. Do we really want Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum as our starting wings on this team?
It would be nice to have an elite player at one of those positions to play alongside LMA, and right now we're putting all our eggs in one basket hoping we get some 'Miracle' point guard to solve all our problems. Well, the simple fact is that he's not out there. Everyone available has a ton of flaws or just isn't likely to find his way onto our team. And it's laughable to think we could solve our Center-position problems, as 75% of the league is looking for a starting-caliber center. They're just few-and-far-between.
The best (i.e. ideal) option we could hope for is that Wesley Matthews is packaged with one (or both) of our 1st-rounders in a trade for an elite (i.e. near-star or better) PG, SG, SF, or C. But that makes too much sense for this Front Office to make happen, and thusly is unlikely to happen.
So I ask you, if someone throws a nice offer Batum's way, such as San Antonio or Sacramento,
(Which way will the ball fall for you?!)