Nicolas Batum certainly isn't shy about showering himself with praise.
When asked if he thought he should be named to the Western Conference All-Star team, Batum took his answer one step above simply saying "Yes."
Really, now? Why is that?
Because the numbers say so, as he told Haynes:
Because of the numbers that I have and the way I play with this team. I got two triple-doubles and I should have about five or six. And we’re 31-9, maybe the best team in the West so far. I think it’ll be tough to get three All-Stars because Damian and L.A. are going to be in it. And our coach, too. But I deserve consideration.
Although his initial delivery—Durant reference—wasn't the most tactful, Batum has a point. His numbers suggest that he deserves consideration.
Batum joins LeBron James, James Harden, Lance Stephenson, Russell Westbrook, Michael Carter-Williams and Durant as the only seven NBA players averaging at least 13 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
Three of those seven are All-Star locks—Harden, James and Durant. If Westbrook were healthy, he would fall into that category as well.
Carter-Williams' case is lukewarm, because coaches don't usually pay respects to rookies in the form of an All-Star selection. But as for Lance Stephenson, teammate Paul George believes he's right there, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt:
He should be close. You think about what we're doing, us being No. 1 in the East. Him being the leader in triple-doubles in the league. It goes to show how big of a part he is to our team. He should get a lot of consideration. The No. 1 team in the league should be putting in three All-Stars.
No, not Stephenson's All-Star case. Those who have fallen victim to his "'Surfin' U.S.A.' meets squatting dog meets Xena: Warrior Princess" celebration dance may spitefully disagree, but he has a strong chance of being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
George's assertion that the league's best team deserves three All-Stars steps on the toes of what Batum said.
"If we’re in first, yes, I believe we should get three," Batum told Haynes.
The Portland Trail Blazers are within a half-game of the Western Conference's best record, and they play home to two surefire All-Stars in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. If the Blazers can supersede the San Antonio Spurs, do they deserve a third All-Star like the league-leading Indiana Pacers will probably get?
Better yet, does Batum deserve a selection?
Small forward is a thin position, especially out West, aided partly by the rise of stretch 4s. After Durant, there really is no clear-cut No. 2. If not Batum, then who? Rudy Gay? Kawhi Leonard? Chandler Parsons?
For All-Star purposes, we could be looking at no one.
Last year, Durant was the only small forward named to the West's All-Star team. He was joined by Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin, David Lee and Aldridge, none of whom qualify as small forwards.
With Kevin Love's video-game numbers back in the mix, we could be headed for a repeat of 2013, where bigger forwards take center stage.
All-Star ballots and roster spots offer open-ended interpretations of positions. There are no small and power forward specifications—there are only forwards, hurting Batum's chances of earning a selection.
"I want to be there," Batum deadpanned to Haynes.
Surpass San Antonio in the standings, and he'll have a much better chance of making the trip to New Orleans than he does now.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!