While the Minnesota Timberwolves pursuit of restricted free agent Nicolas Batum is encouraging to a fanbase desperate to win, acquiring the Portland swingman will not be enough to put the Wolves among the NBA’s elite.
Batum brings a solid skill set to the roster, but even that will not be enough to propel the Wolves into the NBA’s upper echelon.
Here’s why the Wolves won’t get past the first round of the playoffs next season, if they make it to the postseason at all.
Without Ricky Rubio the Wolves were among the cellar dwellers in terms of playmaking.
By the end of the season they ranked 24th overall, with just 19.5 assists per game as a team. Rubio’s 8.2 APG will be crucial for the Wolves in the future, but a prolonged recovery from a torn ACL could be devastating for the team early next season.
Brandon Roy will bring some added offensive punch, but his durability is yet to be proven, given his chronic knee injuries.
Despite Batum’s capabilities, he really does not offer much in the realm of playmaking.
Last season he averaged a paltry 1.4 APG on an underachieving Blazers squad.
His ability to score on second shots is nothing to brag about either. At 6'8", Batum has averaged just over one offensive board per game, despite his long frame and incredible 7’1” wingspan.
If Batum plays for the Wolves, he would slide in nicely as the starting 3, but would by no means be the team's offensive savior next season.
Inhibiting Cap Flexibility
Batum’s numbers do not suggest that he is worthy of a $46.4 million deal.
Last year’s career-best numbers of 13.9 PPG and 4.6 RPG were underwhelming at best, especially considering the dearth of talent on the Blazers roster.
His rather pedestrian 17.32 PER suggests that he’s more of a mid-level exception rather than a player worthy of a salary of $11.6 million annually.
How far could the Timberwolves go with Nicolas Batum?
Acquiring Batum would be a gamble for T-Wolves president David Kahn—despite the lanky wing’s favorable reputation in the league—and could seriously inhibit the T-Wolves ability to attract big name free agents in the future.
To be blunt, Nicolas Batum is not the type of player that is going to push Minnesota over the hump in the Western Conference.
Adding him gives them a legitimate chance of making the postseason, especially considering they were in the running for the No. 8 seed until Rubio went down.
Nevertheless, Minnesota is in a division loaded with talent.
If Minnesota does make the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine the T-Wolves getting out of the first round.
Batum is a nice addition, but if the Wolves want to make some noise out west, they will need a player of superior talent.