An empirical comparison of Nicolas Batum to other starting small forwards: Is he worth his contract? EDIT: Consistency analysis added.

Recently, and not so recently, there have been questions and assertions regarding Nicolas Batum's performance and hefty contract. One assertion I've read is that Batum is actually slightly out performing his contract, while another is that he's overpaid. This post will (1) compare Batum's stats (per-36, advanced, on-off, and Synergy) to those of several other starting small forwards which I subjectively determined should fall in a performance range around him, and (2) attempt to develop a multi-metric index by which his performance to contract ratio can be compared to his peers. Three out of the seven peer small forwards are still on rookie contracts and will not be included in the performance to contract analysis.

I have color coded the players names. Differences are calculated as the absolute value of Nicolas Batum’s stats minus the compared player’s stats. The differences are color coded by which player’s stats are better for a given metric.

Statistical Comparisons


For per-36, Batum's strong points are three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, offensive rebounding, and assists. Weak points appear to be field-goal percentage and defensive rebounding. He is fairly significantly outscored by several peers, but these players also made several more FG or FT attempts per game than did Batum. The take-away from per-36 is that all of the compared players are fairly similar. Many advantages in particular stats in particular comparisons are held by just a few 10ths.

Batum slides a bit in the advanced comparisons. His strengths are offensive rebounding percentage, assist percentage, steal percentage, and block percentage. His true shooting percentage is also strong, but falls to his peers fairly consistently in the remainder of categories.


For on-off, Batum's strengths are assist percentage and block pertage, and he splits overall offensive rating with the group. He's fairly consistently bested in rebounding percentage.


For Syngery, Batum is fourth in overall defensive ranking among the seven compared players. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are the only two peer comparisons in which Batum does claim at least two out of four defensive categories. Batum also ranks fourth overall in offense.

Multi-Metric Contract Analysis

The goal of this multi-metric contract analysis is to develop a single performance score by which the yearly contract amount can be divided to determine dollars per unit of performance. Multiple statistics are incorporated to attempt to avoid any potential built in bias in a single statistic.

The formula I've created is [(PER + WS + on-off difference ORtg) x Synergy offensive PPP] / Synergy defensive PPP

I chose these metrics so that advanced, on-off, and Synergy stats would all be represented and so that no performance score would be less than one. Metrics for which higher numbers are better are represented in the numerator and the metric for which a lower number is better is represented in the denominator. This formula was not developed or tweaked in any way to consciously favor any player. If anyone sees a flaw in this formula and can make a rational argument for a different one I will recalculate dollars per unit of performance and post the results.


At least based on this analysis, I would conclude that Nicolas Batum's contract is very well-priced compared to other high-level small forwards in the league.


Statistically, Nicolas Batum ranks about middle of the pack when compared to the better perceived starting small forwards in the league (not including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Camelo Anthony for obvious reasons). Value wise, when compared to other veterans, he is very well priced. My opinion is that it would be very difficult to replace his performance for less money without trading for one of the up-and-comers in this analysis or drafting very well.

Consistency Analysis - I was initially going to post this as a separate fan post, but I realized that it really belongs here.

Dustructo has stated that Batum is overpaid because of his perceived inconsistency. "I’d say because he’s been so inconsistent he’s about an 8 million dollar guy." Consistency, however, must be considered in context. If Batum is about as consistent as other high level, veteran small forwards then any inconsistency is a non-issue because we wouldn't get any more consistency out of anyone we’d replace him with. So what do the data say? Let's take a look.

I analyzed consistency using the game score metric, developed by John Hollinger. The definition and formula for game score can be found here: I looked at game scores for each regular season game for Batum, Gallinari, Iguodala, Deng, and Gay. I then plotted these game scores on connected scatter plots which provide a good visual comparison of each player's consistency to Batum's.


This group comparison is somewhat noisy, so I've also produced individual comparisons.





A box and whisker plot is another way to visualize the variation in the data. The black horizontal bars represent the median game score for each player.


From these figures we can visually estimate that Batum is about as consistent as his peers.

I've also created frequency histograms to show how frequently each player falls into a specific performance range.


From the frequency histograms we can see that each player most frequently performs in the 10-15 game score range and has about as many games in that range as any other player. We can also see that each player has about the same number of performances above the 10-15 range as below.

So what do the raw numbers say?


The mean game score among this group is 11.94 and the mean standard deviation is 6.62. The standard deviation in Batum's 2012-2013 games scores is about 7% greater than the mean standard deviation of the groups 2012-2013 games scores.


If we use standard deviation as an analog for consistency, Batum was about 7% less consistent than the average of his peers. Is 7% significant? This is where subjectivity comes in. Taking everything from this entire post together, I would say that 7% is not significant. Batum has the highest mean game score, the second highest performance score from the contract analysis, and the second smallest contract among comparable veterans. If he was Rudy Gay, one of the highest paid while also being one of the lowest performing, then maybe 7% consistency would be something to talk about.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.

Join Blazer's Edge

You must be a member of Blazer's Edge to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blazer's Edge. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.