So as most Trail Blazer fans know by know, Portland failed to reach an agreement with Nicolas Batum that would extend his contract. While this comes as a shock to many, to most it should not be that surprising. How long could Portland continue to have a starting forward coming off the bench?
Trail Blazers fans have been hearing about Nic Batum becoming a superstar for a few years now—that Batum reaching star status has basically been inevitable. All the tangibles are there: he's quick, tall, has tremendous reach and is a relatively pure shooter.
So far, he's taking his time reaching that potential.
Last year it was evident that Portland lacked energy at crucial times in games. They played too slowly and didn't have a player that could raise the pace of the game and make momentum-changing plays. Then, Gerald Wallace came to Portland in a deadline trade.
Wallace made an immediate impact in Portland and helped to bring energy to the squad. He creates match up problems and is one of the better defensive players in the NBA. This year, Wallace has stepped up his role and is a crucial piece to this team rather than just a dynamic playmaker. Gerald Wallace is a fan favorite and an all-around great NBA player.
Having two small forwards that would start on most NBA teams is definitely not a bad problem for any team. Most teams would absolutely love to be that deep at the "3" position. This only becomes a problem when contracts run out and, unfortunately for Portland, this is the case.
Batum's minutes are down from last year by about eight, and as a result, just about every other stat has gone down as well. However, Batum is coming off the bench and playing with the second unit, which has made finding his role difficult. Nicolas gets lost on the court and sometimes just doesn't look like he's comfortable.
What Does Portland Do?
When a finger injury kept Wallace out, Ba tum started and looked like the player he was promised to turn into, scoring over 20. But which Batum is the real one? Which Nicolas Batum would the Trail Blazers be getting if they were to make a fair offer and retain the potential star?
Batum wants to start and show he can be the small forward for the future of the organization. He wants to be paid for what he can be and prove that he isn't just an over-hyped international player. He's only 23 years old and the potential is there, but is he worth the risk? If Batum manages to get on track, he could be a force on the Blazers for the next decade.
With Gerald Wallace, Portland gets tenacity every night on both ends of the court. Wallace wears himself out every single game and he does it by filling up the stat sheet. If Wallace doesn't do a little bit of everything, he feels as though he had a bad game.
The Trail Blazers know what they get from Wallace and they want to sign him to a long term contract after this season.
Wallace is a star in the NBA and has proven himself throughout his career. Wallace is still only 29 years old, but with the way he plays it seems as though making it to 35 might be a stretch. Wallace is a key component to the organization and should continue to provide energy for at least four more years if retained.
So, Portland stands at an interesting decision. They are a young team at every position other than center and should continue to be a contender in the Western Conference. But it appears as though they will have to choose between two of their prized possessions: a young "potential" star trying to earn his starting spot, and a proven NBA All Star that has about half a career left.
Which decision is the right one?