How good will Nicolas Batum be?
Well, we've kind of seen it,haven't we? Not that Batum won't evolve over the course of his career, but I see him more as the 15-16 ppg guy who plays nice defense than a 20 ppg all-around superstar. He'll be good. He doesn't seem to have the internal makeup to be great.
I talked to a couple of NBA guys about Batum back in the days before they'd be fined a million billion dollars for even mentioning a player's name. The conversations were about other things but we covered the Batum topic briefly. One guy said the sky's the limit...that Batum has the tools and the shot to go wherever he wants in this league and unlike some potential stars he has the defense to stay on the floor while he's becoming that player. The second guy was a little more measured in his praise but still tabbed Batum as a legitimate talent. "But," he said, "the kid doesn't seem to have that 'it' factor, the kind of drive that the stars have." I asked how many times he'd seen a player develop that factor and his basic response was, "You can't."
As Ben has chronicled throughout the EuroBasket tournament, Batum has turned in some great moments. In the end those great moments produced pretty much the same statistical results as his minutes with the Trail Blazers. That's going to be Batum's story. He gives "X" and you're going to get "X", period. That's the classic description of a complementary player. If "X" increases over the years he'll be a fantastic complementary player. If not he'll be mediocre. If you're looking for more you're likely to be disappointed. Even though they're completely different players, waiting for Nicolas to turn into a star feels eerily like the wait for Travis Outlaw to do the same. There's always a tantalizing hope. The fruition--consistency and impact--doesn't come.
If there's a problem with this, it's with the Blazers rather than Batum. The team's situation has changed since Brandon Roy and Greg Oden became bad bets. With those two players healthy Batum is precisely what the Blazers need: good complementary player, defender, shooter. If they're out and the Blazers are trying to rely on LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace the team needs more from Nicolas...more that may not be there. This will inevitably skew the view of his contributions.
My take on Batum is that I'm just as happy as ever to have him, but increasingly less attached as the years roll by and the team's situation evolves. I don't forecast him playing his entire career with the Blazers but that doesn't mean I'm eager to get rid of him now. Like Wesley Matthews, Batum is a guy you'd never regret having on your team. He just won't step forward and dominate it.