Why Nicolas Batum Will Become One of the Greatest Trail Blazers of All-Time

Tyler Ward@twardyyyAnalyst IJune 4, 2011

DENVER - DECEMBER 28:  Nicolas Batum #88 of the Portland Trail Blazers awaits a free throw against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Blazers 95-77. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the 25th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets selected France’s Nicolas Batum. His rights were then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Joey Dorsey and Donte Greene.

What a steal.

Batum, currently one of the leaders off of the Blazers’ bench, is entering the prime of his career.

He is just 22 years old and his potential is through the ceiling. He is one of the most athletic players in the league with the wingspan of a seven-footer.

Batum also has the ability to guard any position on the court, as he is 6’8” and has that great wingspan. Not to mention, his defense is impeccable in general and having the height advantage makes him eligible to be one of the best defensive players in the league.

Batum has drawn comparisons to Rudy Gay, but he has the potential to become even better. He is a much better passer and just as great of a rebounder.

He is a very versatile wing player with a quick first step. His long strides allow him to run the court with the best of them and he has the ability to finish off Derrick Rose-like shots.

The Frenchman’s shooting is well-timed, with his shot having a high release and good elevation.

Batum’s passes are very precise, which shows that he has exceptional decision-making skills. His length and athleticism allow him to reach over other small forwards to gobble up rebounds.

All around the board, Batum is a great player and has the ability to become a future All-Star in this league.

But before he was drafted, Batum drew some criticism, most notably from ESPN’s John Hollinger.

Hollinger said of Batum, "One guy I can tell you about is Nicolas Batum. Teams are apparently worried about drafting Batum because of a possible heart ailment; I'd recommend avoiding him for other reasons—like the fact that he can't play, for instance..."

He should be swallowing his words right about now.

Batum has shown that he can be a great player through his first three years in the league, dating back to the start of his first season.

During his rookie season, Batum came off the bench for the first three games. In his fourth game against Utah, he was inserted into the starting rotation for the first time in his career after an injury knocked out Travis Outlaw.

Batum recorded a season-high 20 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 29.9 seconds left, to help the Blazers defeat the New Jersey Nets, 109-100.

Prior to the 2009-10 season, Batum had played really well for the French National Team before he suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and was sidelined for the team’s first 45 games of the year.

Despite just playing in 37 games, including 25 starts, Batum averaged 10.1 points. He also shot 51.9 percent from the field, a career-high, and 84.3 percent from the free throw line.

In arguably the best game of his career, on Feb. 27, 2010 against Minnesota, Batum scored a career-high 31 points, while shooting 11-for-16 from the field. He also dished out seven assists, grabbed seven rebounds and stole three passes.

His promise started showing with that game.

The following season, many expected him to blossom into player they were hoping—and he did just that.

Batum played in 80 games this season, starting 67. He averaged a little over 31 minutes per game and his numbers increased significantly. He shot just 45.5 percent from the field, but averaged 12.4 points and 4.5 rebounds, both career highs.

On March 25, 2011, against the San Antonio Spurs, Batum showed the Spurs he was here to stay. With the Blazers down two in the waning seconds of the fourth, Batum managed to score four points in .9 seconds, two from the free throw stripe and a buzzer-beating layup on an inbounds pass from Andre Miller.

The Blazers won the game, 98-96. And Batum showed that he is here to stay.

And he can only get better as time rolls on.

With a team that already includes Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers are looking to do some damage in the West over the next few years.

Batum is more than likely going to be the everyday starter next season for the Blazers, and I expect him to put up even better numbers.

His athleticism and length make him an absolute stud on the court. With those abilities, Batum can become one of the best all-around players in the league.

If the Blazers don’t stupidly trade away Batum or let him go, he will eventually become one of the best Blazers of all-time. His skills are just too special, especially since he is entering the prime of his career.

Hell, I’d even say that he’ll become an All-Star at some point in his career and help lead the Blazers to the NBA Finals. That’s my bold prediction and I’m sure Nicolas Batum agrees with me.


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