Yesterday, Ken Berger dropped this in his notes column for CBSSports.com, regarding Denver's rumored interest in Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum in their Carmelo Anthony trade discussions.
Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable - he's still on his rookie contract - but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don't take full advantage of Batum's open-court abilities.
Picking up that line of reasoning, Bethlehem Shoals writes on NBA Fanhouse...
The Blazers are too smart to readily cut ties with Batum, who is something of a Frenchman's Kevin Durant (maybe there's poetic justice after all). Yet as Berger points out, because of what Portland's out to do on the court, Batum's hypothetical value to Portland, and the price he could command from another team, might not sync up with what he'll be allowed to do on the court. Or, more accurately, what Nate McMillan allows him to do. As Berger writes, "Batum is not only affordable - he's still on his rookie contract - but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don't take full advantage of Batum's open-court abilities".
To be fair, so far, the youngster is having a productive season. He's starting games, getting solid minutes despite the team's deep rotation, and exploded for 19 points and 11 boards in the Blazers' first outing. Still, if you've seen Batum in international competitions, scrimmages, or other more free-flowing situations, you can see what Berger is talking about: the lanky small forward is a lockdown defender who can shoot, handle and pass like a guard, rebound, and make plays like crazy. He was born to play in ... well, any system but Nate McMillan's death slog. Put on a more up-tempo team, Batum wouldn't just be a defensive standout, or a youngster coming into his own. He would be a star.
Batum had a solid start to the season, dropping in 19 points against Phoenix, and was efficient from the field in wins over the Clippers and the Knicks. Last night, however, he pretty much no-showed (going 1-5 for 3 points and getting torched by Luol Deng), and McMillan cut his playing time down to 18 minutes.
Dwight Jaynes argues that Batum has earned a looser leash.
I also wonder about the coach's commitment to Nic Batum. He played just 17:53 last night. Yes, he had trouble getting shots down and had just one rebound in that time. But my point is, I believe he's a good enough player and important enough for this team that he gets minutes even on the nights when he starts slowly. But only Roy and Aldridge get that kind of commitment, it seems. And the team has gotten so dependent on those two players that it's again very predictable.
Put aside any and all trade talk, which is Stephen Curry thin.
Instead, focus on this question: Four games into the season, do you feel that McMillan is effectively using Nicolas Batum? If not, what needs to change? More minutes? More consistent minutes? More touches? A greater variety of touches? More off-ball movement? What's on your Nicolas Batum Improvement Wish List?
Or, is this a matter of sky-high expectations getting ahead of Batum's ability to consistently produce?
Vote in the poll and weigh in down in the comments.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter