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Can Nicolas Batum Lead an NBA Team?

In the FIBA World Cup, Nicolas Batum led Team France to a better-than-expected finish. Could he do that in the NBA?

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Nicolas Batum completed a busy summer, where he led Team France to a bronze medal, and was named to the All-FIBA team along with NBA players such as Kyrie Irving and Pau Gasol. In the final two games, Batum scored 35 and 27 points respectively. After years of being a complementary player in Portland behind Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and now Damian Lillard, perhaps there is a side of Batum rarely seen in the NBA.


Philadelpha, PA (Fake News Service) -- The Philadelphia 76ers unexpectedly completed a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers today, moving now-healthy rookie center Nerlens Noel to the Portland Trail Blazers for Nicolas Batum. Sixers management reportedly said, "Well, he led a team of relative unknowns in the FIBA World Cup, and we think he can do it here too". Adam Silver was reported so excited for Philadelphia to genuinely attempt to compete that he waived the trade rules to complete the transaction.

Big news! As of this transaction, Nicolas Batum has been traded to the wasteland that is the Philadelphia 76ers. In fact, their Rookie of the Year candidate, Noel, has been traded to Portland. And after years of being the background player,  Batum now finds himself in an unfamiliar NBA role: The Alpha Leader of the team. I know this sounds weird, but let's ignore the Blazers' role in this "trade" and look closer at our now-former Small Forward:

Can Nicolas Batum rise to the challenge?

With or without this trade, the Sixers would be unlikely to reach the playoffs, even in the woeful East. But it does open up thoughts about whether Batum could play the "LeBron role" (aka the unquestioned Alpha) on a weak team and lead them to victories. Despite his sometimes-passive look in the FIBA World Cup, his team was actually effective and reached the Bronze medal, and he was recognized for his role. Can that translate to the NBA?

The question leads to many smaller questions. Would a role as a team leader force Batum out of his perceived "passive" role? If so, does his current style reflect his attitude on the court, or simply the role he's expected to play inside the Blazers' offense?

Your turn. How would Nicolas Batum respond to this kind of role? Take the conversation any direction you'd like. But here are a few more questions to get you started:

- What stats would team-leader Batum put up in the Eastern Conference?
- Would his 1-on-1 skills impede his ability to be the primary scorer in the modern NBA?
- How would he handle defense with a team of young players?
- Would his distribution skills improve his teammates, or would his passes be wasted on them?
- Would he make his teammates better, worse, or would he be irrelevant?

Possibly most importantly, would a young team led by Nicolas Batum surpass already-low expectations, or fall further under them?

Give your thoughts in the comments!