Nicolas Batum: How Restricted Free Agent Will Make Timberwolves a Playoff Team

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Nicolas Batum #88 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles past Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game at Staples Center on February 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves have wanted Portland Trail Blazers restricted free agent Nicolas Batum from the moment the offseason began. Now they have to make it happen.

If they do, the Wolves will be headed to the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

ESPN's Ric Bucher had reported that the Wolves were attempting a sign-and-trade deal with Portland to try and acquire the 23-year-old forward. If a sign-and-trade isn't done and the Wolves sign Batum to an offer sheet, the Blazers can match and the Wolves would be basically stuck in the same position they were a season ago.

With Batum however, the Wolves can address their two main weaknesses: production and shooting from the wing.

Batum averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds during 2011-12, the best of his four NBA seasons. But more importantly, he shot 45.1 percent from the floor, which would have ranked him behind only Nikola Pekovic among Minnesota regulars a season ago.

In addition, Batum's 39.1 percent that he shot from behind the arc would have led the Minnesota team.

The Wolves need consistent shooting to contend and with the acquisitions of Batum and Chase Budinger, who knocked down 40.2 percent of his shots from behind the arc, Minnesota would fill a dire offseason need.

There's also the fact that Batum is entering his prime and is only getting better.

He's a long combo-forward who can run the floor and finish. And he's a very good catch-and-shoot guy. His length also makes him a factor defensively, which will come in handy as well.

A potential lineup that could feature Ricky Rubio (when healthy), Brandon Roy, Batum, Kevin Love and Pekovic could prove to be pretty dangerous.

Batum is the key, though.

By adding his talents to that lineup, the Wolves have a playmaker in Rubio, an MVP candidate in Love, toughness in Pekovic and now, the necessary shooting in Batum. All the pieces could then fall into place.

If they do, the next stop is the playoffs.