The Portland Trail Blazers are trying their best to retain Nicolas Batum, the highly skilled French forward who has really grown over the past, but if it means overpaying for Batum, then it could lead to him going to a new team.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been reported to have a deal on the table that would pay Batum somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million over the next four seasons.
Batum can't be worth that much, can he?
Well, to figure that out, we really need to break the young fellow down.
Portland has never really made Batum a full-time starter, but it also never relegated him to being a full-time bench player, either, so it's hard to specifically say what he is at this point. It seems to be leaning more toward starter than anything, so let's just make that assumption so we don't have to go down and split hairs when evaluating whether or not a bench player should be paid as much as a starter.
Anyway, Batum has shown decent improvement over his first four years in Portland, steadily bumping his way up in scoring each year and settling down at 14 points per game this year. It's the same story with rebounding, topping out at 4.6 boards per game this year.
In terms of efficiency, Batum was the 37th-most efficient forward in the league last season, putting him in the same neighborhood as guys like Thaddeus Young, Shawn Marion and Danilo Gallinari, although the PER isn't the best at revealing a player's defensive prowess.
Now, when we get down to it, there's a lot of controversy surrounding Nicolas Batum and his defensive prowess.
While he has the long arms and is a quick, close-out guy on the thee-point line, everything else that he does defensively is average. He gets his hands on balls, which gives him good block and steal numbers, but numbers can lie.
While Batum is nowhere near a bad defender, it just seems that his length and athleticism have led to some overzealous opinions about Batum as a lock-down defender. He's certainly not strong enough in the post to keep guys from backing him down, and he's not pesky nor quick enough around the perimeter to do much more than be an average defender.
That being said, Batum (for the most part) is still better at stopping his opponent than his opponent is at stopping him—it's just not as big a difference as people normally make it out to be.
Let's think about what Batum would be getting paid for. Obviously, a guy who scores just 14 points a game isn't worth $12.5 million a year, but a guy who could score 18 points a game could be worth that if he's also a good defender.
Anybody who signs Batum is going to be hoping he'll get better—not hoping they'll continue to get the same production out of him, which is key here.
Based just on his past statistics, Batum isn't worth more than former teammate Gerald Wallace, who signed a four-year, $40 million deal. More likely, Batum would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of a four-year, $36 million deal.
However, Wallace is getting no better than he is right now; Batum, as a 23-year-old kid with room to improve his game, is worth at least that four-year, $40 million deal. Although $50 million is overpaying for him, in some cases, it's better to overpay and know you'll be getting a good player for four years than to play cheap and watch him burn you.
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