Zach Lowe of Grantland.com writes that Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum is a "solid" defender but that his reputation might be a bit overblown.
Let me be clear: I think Batum is a solid, versatile defender, but there really isn't any evidence he's the long-armed stopper a lot of NBA people seem to think he is. He can get weirdly off-kilter at times - wrong-footed against pick-and-roll ball handlers, reacting a beat late to a cut off the ball,, etc. Portland has been stingier with Batum on the bench in three of his five seasons, and in the other two campaigns, including this one, the difference has been negligible - i.e., less than half of one point per 100 possessions. His one-on-one numbers have also been middling.
All these stats come with noise, but when the noise trends the same way every season, you can begin to make some assumptions - especially when the eye test leads you in the same direction. The assumption here isn't that Batum is a bad defender, merely that he's decent at best, and that his long arms don't make up for quite as much of the bad stuff as it might appear.
But his versatility is valuable. He can defend point guards for short stretches, and I like (count this as a mini-like) how Portland can stick the beefier Wesley Matthews on post-oriented small forwards while Batum slides to shooting guards.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter