Name: Nicolas Batum
Last Week’s Stats: 6.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Nicolas Batum may not have been the star of Week 13, but that’s not his role. He’s become a great all-around player, and while an All-Star game may or may not be in his future, he believes he’s ready to make an appearance as early as this very season.
“Yes, of course,” Batum told CSNNW’s Chris Haynes when asked if he deserved a spot in the All-Star game. “If they have to pick one small forward behind K.D. (Kevin Durant), I think it should be me.”
Batum went on to emphasize that his numbers back up his claim. “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.”
If we’re being honest, Batum’s chances of making the All-Star game are not in his favor. Having three players from one team is an incredibly difficult feat to achieve, and quite frankly, Batum’s points per game aren’t indicative of a traditional All-Star.
Then again, consider this: Batum is one of just seven players averaging 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. He’s become a triple-double threat on almost any given night, and he’s the second-best assists-per-game small forward behind four-time MVP LeBron James.
Last week, Batum earned praise for playing with a fractured finger on his left hand, and that will continue to be a story moving forward. This injury should keep the swingman away from legitimate discussions regarding All-Star Weekend, but the bigger picture is that he’s finding ways to contribute even when he’s less than 100 percent.
Despite averaging his lowest scoring numbers in years, Batum is posting career highs in rebounds and assists. He’s also proving that he can be the defensive player everyone wants him to be, as he’s holding his opponents at the 3 to a PER (per 48 minutes) of just 14.1, according to 82games.com.
He’s also being charged with the responsibility of guarding opponents’ best player in crunch time, which is something you can only say about a true go-to defender.
The Blazers are the only team in the NBA to have used the same starting lineup all season, and while overall health is the reason why, it’s Batum’s resiliency to play with a broken finger that makes the biggest difference.
This year’s team is different than years past in the sense that everyone has help. With the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard as go-to options (as well as the efficiency of players like Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams), Batum is no longer expected to be the next scorer in line — something he’s struggled with in the past.
The 25-year-old recognizes what his role is in Rip City, and whether he makes an All-Star game in his career or not, he’s turning into one of the better glue guys in the NBA.