Will he stay or will he go?
The Portland Trail Blazers backed up general manager Neil Olshey’s insistence about forward Nicolas Batum‘s importance to the team as the 23 year-old restrictred free agent was extended a qualifying offer ahead of the July 1st deadline.
This affords the team an opportunity to match any contract offers made to him this off season.
Here’s why I love and hate this move.
1). Move Guarantees Starter Position
The Blazers are making a symbolic commitment of sorts to Batum in this move. If the team re-signs him, Batum would almost certainly have to be assured that he will be the starting small forward for the Portland Trail Blazers in the upcoming future.
There is no way that Portland could expect Batum to re-sign with the red and black without some sort of promise that public address announcer Mark Mason will call his name when the lights go out in the Rose Garden Arena and the pyrotechnics go off.
2). The Pending Coach Has Options
Whether it is Kaleb Canales, Jerry Sloan, or an unnamed coach that has yet to be determined, extending a contract offer to Batum will give the next Blazers coach one more option for his 2012-13 roster.
Not doing this would almost guarantee that the Frenchman would leave the Rose City, and this could be painful if the next hire loves Batum’s game.
3). Fan Favorite
Nicolas Batum is undoubtedly a fan favorite in Rip City. The team could do much worse than officially re-signing the smooth playing forward who has expressed a strong desire to stay with the only team that he has ever known.
His involvment in the French-American community in Portland gives him a special connection within the community that few players (i.e. Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez) have had in recent Blazers memory.
4). Catching Batum on the Way Up
Batum could blossom with the changes at One Center Court. A full season will a new coach, whether it is Canales or someone else of Olshey’s choosing will breathe fresh life into his game, one that was often stifled by former coach Nate McMillan.
Batum has increased his scoring average each of his four seasons in the league and if a high scoring veteran is not added to Portland’s mix, he will be expected to score more than ever before.
1). Bidding War
There is little doubt that the Frenchman could command a contract of close to $10 million based on the potential for his game to develop. While Olshey likely has little or no allegiance to Batum, owner Paul Allen does.
Given his notorious penchant for draft day moves, one in which Batum was acquired from Philadelphia via Houston in 2008, Allen is the type of owner that would over pay to keep a player that he has had from his first day in the NBA.
As we all know this is even if it is too steep for what the Blazers should pay given their massive needs at point guard and center.
2). 10.3 Points Per Game
Batum will be paid on the basis of what he could do, not what he has done. 10.3 is his career average in points per game.
In 59 games during the 2011-12 campaign, he averaged 13.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds on 45.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from behind the arc.
While he exhibits a vast defensive prowess, Batum simply is not worth $8 to $10 million based on his past output alone.
If he is given $30 million over three years, it would be difficult to justify it if, in hindsight, the forward does not end up averaging 17 to 18 points or at least make an All-Defensive team.
Given the fact that Batum is relatively injury-free compared to the rest of his Blazers teammates, appearing in 255 out of a possible 312 games, some of the 57 which were DNP-Coach’s Decision, Portland is not going after damaged goods.
At 23, Batum would be an elder statesman and be asked step into a leadership position as a team veteran, a role that Batum could excel in leading by example.
There are illustrations such as his charity work in the French community, his stellar attitude on and off the court, and the number of autograph appearances that he makes throughout Portland.
If Nicolas Batum does decide to remain in Portland at close to $8 million or so, the Blazers could do much worse with that money.