Is Nicolas Batum the best long term solution for Portland?

Portland Wing Woes

Now that Portland seems to have officially lost the Roy Hibbert race, it’s time to decide what happens with the small forward position.

Nicolas Batum—the current incumbent—is sitting on a four year, $45-$50 million, offer from Minnesota. Portland seems fully prepared to match. However, Minnesota is determined, reportedly exploring multiple sign-and-trade opportunities.

The two most common scenarios involve Portland getting Derrick Williams, or the Philadelphia 76ers getting involved and Portland landing Andre Iguodala.

All three are interesting prospects, but which player is best suited for Portland?

Andre Iguodala

If a sign and trade did occur, and Portland landed Iguodala, they’d be getting a lot of things.

Nic Batum, Portland Trailblazers

Will Nic Batum stay in Portland or take a richer offer elsewhere?

The Philadelphia small forward has established himself as one of the league’s premier outside defenders. His instincts and length make him a pass eating machine. He also gets the occasional block, while doubling as a great rebounder.

On offense, Iggy brings plenty to the table. His athleticism really helps him drive the ball, and he can score on you in any way. His most inconsistent move is the 3-pointer, though his percentage has gone up over the last three seasons, with a career high of 39.4% last season.

Despite his strengths, Iguodala has plenty of flaws. He’s 28, and his scoring has dropped over the last four seasons, hitting an almost career low 12.4 ppg last year.

He’s on the books for over $13,000,000 per year, making him Portland’s most expensive option.

He’s also been Philadelphia’s main man for most of his career. Who knows how well he would take to playing back seat to LaMarcus Aldridge. With that said, Iggy’s been said to have a great work ethic and great attitude, as well as veteran/playoff experience.

If Portland is looking for experience, veteran leadership and suffocating defense, Iguodala is their man.

Derrick Williams

Another possible trade scenario floating around is that Portland and Minnesota cut out Philadelphia, with the T-Wolves making a direct sign-and-trade to Portland with Derrick Williams as the center piece.

This is a very intriguing option. Williams, the 2011 NBA draft second overall pick, took well to his first professional season, averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game.

If the Blazers make a move for Williams, they’re making a step in a very different basketball direction.

While Batum is currently an under-bulked small forward, with a mean 3-point shot, Williams is a big 3 who can play at the 4—something Minnesota did all season long—who plays much more of a slashing offensive game, with an uncanny ability of getting to the line.

An acquisition of Williams would certainly require a culture change, but could be worth it. If he continues to develop a growing perimeter game, he’ll become much more dangerous on offense.

His versatility will allow Portland to continue to go small when necessary, moving L.A. to center and putting D-Will at power forward. He’s also younger, and cheaper, than Batum.

Portland’s taking a risk with Williams, but in the end the dividends could certainly pay off.

Nicolas Batum

Brought over from France at the age of 19, the now 23-year old is one of the most perplexing players Portland has to offer.

Coming in at 6’8 and 200 lbs. he looks like you could snap him like a twig. However, what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in athleticism and length. He’s incredibly lanky, giving him an overall advantage in any defensive scheme.

Originally viewed as having a driving offensive mentality, Portland has morphed him into a threat at the wing. Last season he upped his production for the fourth season in a row, scoring 13.9 ppg while shooting 39.1% from downtown.

Batum also saw his best season defensively in 2011, averaging 1 block and 1 steal per game.

Despite so-so stats to date, Batum remains one of the most beloved and sought after players in the NBA. It seems whenever trade talks come up he’s involved, and there’s a myriad of Blazer fans refusing to let him go—at times, I’ve been lumped into that group.

However, what has he really brought to the table?

Will Derrick Williams be the solution for Portland? Photo credit:

Sure, he’s a much more consistent wing player than Wesley Matthews, but he’s still not 100% there. Everyone raves about his defense, but many scouts have ranked his perceived skills as overrated.

He lacks at fundamentals like rebounding, and a lot of that is attributed to being undersized—something that he’s never managed to change.

Then there’s the fact that the Blazer’s would be forced to pay the man over $10,000,000 per year for five years. Is “what he could be” really worth that much money?

While he’s ingrained himself as a budding wing player with aggressive defense, Batum’s ceiling is anything, but a sure thing.

The Verdict

All three of these players have a lot going for them, but also a lot going against.

Immediately I’m cutting out Andrew Iguodala. He’s good, he’s established, but he’s also the oldest and most expensive option.

His offensive decline is certainly outweighed by his legit defense, but I don’t think he’s the missing piece for Portland.

From there it’s really a toss up between Nicolas Batum and Derrick Williams.

I love Batum a lot. In fact, he’s probably my favorite Blazer, and I would certainly miss shouting “BATUUUUM SHAKA LAKA” every time he sinks a three.

Despite my homerism, he remains one of the most enigmatic players on the roster. He’s not as consistent on the wing as he should be, and his recent contract comments have left much to be desired in the PR department—though how much of that is his agents doing is unknown.

Then we get to D-Will. He’s young, and he’s cheap, immediate plus signs. He’s almost as big a prospect as Batum. But, he’s the least established of the bunch and has a lot of room to grow.

His perimeter game really needs to improve for him to be as unstoppable on offense as he should be. His defense is also lacking.

One gets the feeling that if he could find consistency, Batum could fill the Brandon Roy shaped void at the wing.

With Williams, you’re getting huge upside with a lot more cap space for the future.

In the end I don’t envy whoever has to make the call.

If it was me, I think I’d have to pull for Williams—yes, that sentence killed me, but it offers the most growth for the future.


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About Jonathan Irwin

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