Friday, June 27, 2008

The new Batum

Upon hearing the Trail Blazers had traded the draft rights to Kansas’ Darrell Arthur and Memphis’ Joey Dorsey to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Nicolas Batum, most assumed it was another case of Portland taking a European player with intentions of stashing him away overseas. After all, letting a player season outside of the ultra-competitive confines of the NBA is a common practice for general manager Kevin Pritchard. Couple that with a nearly full roster and Batum’s relative inexperience and it’s easy to see why so many don’t expect to see the 25th pick wearing red and black come the start of the ’08-’09 season. At this point though, Batum’s return to France and his club team, Le Mans, is hardly a foregone conclusion.

“I don’t think it’s been determined,” Kevin Pritchard said of Batum’s plans for next season, “so we are going to wait and see how it shakes out. I think there’s a chance either way.”

“Whether he’s playing over there in games or playing here, we’re hoping he improves,” said Mike Born, the Trail Blazers’ Director of NBA Scouting. “It’s going to take some time for him, but we really like him as a guy we can bring over this year and start working with him to try to develop his game and see how he fits in with our team.”

Batum is tentatively scheduled to play on the Blazers Summer League team, so the decision regarding whether to add him to the regular season roster could be determined by his performance in Las Vegas.

“He’s becoming a better shooter. He’s working on his defense, and I think he could be a really good NBA defender. That will get him on the floor quicker than later,” says Pritchard. “As our team progresses we’ll need a defensive wing. So if he could become a gritty defender, he’s going to get on the court a lot quicker.”

Batum’s length and athleticism allowed Pritchard and his staff to overlook some of the inexperience and flaws that may have scared off other teams from taking the Frenchman with a first round pick.

“At that part of the draft it’s important for us to take a chance on a kid that has upside,” said Pritchard. “Nicolas has got great length and a great body for a prototypical ‘3’ man. He’s learning the game and we think he could become a nice player in a couple of years.”

There were also questions regarding a potential heart condition, though Pritchard noted team doctors gave Batum’s health a “full clearance.”

Born, who has followed Batum’s progression in Europe for the past three years, said he envisions the 19 year-old crafting his game after another slight-framed small forward.

“When you look at his size, his length -- he’s almost 6-9 with a 7-2 wingspan -- when you look at that stuff and start projecting him as a straight small forward,” said Born. “Now granted, he’s still young and he’s still got a long ways to go as far as being a finished product, but you look at guys like Tayshaun Prince and some of those long, kind of versatile small forwards. He could be a really nice fit for our team. He’s always been a pretty good defender in Europe, always been a good team player.”

Some have called into question Batum’s performances in the French and Euro leagues, though Born thinks those concerns might have more to do with the differences in which young players are treated by club teams overseas.

“He’s been considered at some level a passive player at times,” said Born. “I’ve seen it myself. But he is an unselfish player; he doesn’t mind deferring to his teammates. There’s a fine line there.

“But part of it just may be what the coach wants. He’s 19 years old playing in the French league and Euro league. If you track European teams, there are very few young players that get a chance to play at the top level because European coaches, for the most part, don’t play young kids. They’re going to go with the veteran, the guys that have the experience. So just the fact that he got on the floor says something.”


Patrick said...

With draft day done, we now have a very full roster that needs trimming. James Jones is a free agent and there have been talks of trading either Webster or Outlaw. So with the possible loss of two SFs, there does seem to be a slight opportunity for Batum to make it on the Blazers regular season roster.

Apart from whats been mentioned about his defense and length, the guy has an exceptional passing game, and that passing can give that extra dimension to the Blazers offense which neither Webster or Outlaw offer (James Jones however did a great job making that crucial extra pass).

But hands down, Batum is a major upgrade on our perimeter defence. I hope Batum rips it up in Summer League!

Ryan said...

Thanks for this entry. Interesting stuff.

stiveun said...

I'm the first fan of nicolas !
I'm from le mans, i've seen him playing since 3 years... you'll appreciate !
he's gonna become a great player in the league because of his great arms, faculty to defense, and he has a great shot...
when tony parker came in nba, nobody thought he is becoming a great player...and he is !
you'll see and appreciate nicolas...

hey, in france we play basketball too...don't forget

Greg said...

Patrick, you are a little off about Outlaw not making the extra pass. I am a season ticket holder and a huge fan of outlaws. His passes out of double teams are amazing. He has great court vision and when they swing the ball he always makes the right pass. Granted he shoots a little to much but that is only because he is probably told to as he is one of the best shooters on the team. Outlaw is their best small forward for sure....

Hippie Lettuce said...

Batum seems to be a little like Outlaw three years ago, but less athletic. Outlaw has come a long way and is a starter now so trading him would be a bad move. I hope Batum is good enough to be a starter one day but for now Outlaw is the man, he can create his own shot in crunch time and if his defense continues to improve nobody will take his spot for a long time

JayEmBee said...

Batum is the player I've been lookin' at and was hopin' we could get our hands on. I figured it was a slim chance but if he turns out to be a tenacious defender than we just got a great deal. Also, Casey, I assume you meant 08-09 season. Go Blazers!!

chris5963 said...

I think they should have kept dorsey and got rid of blake, webster, sergio, and outlaw. they suck and will never be allstars. I have been watching the blazers since they came into the league. I would have picked up Hairston from Oregon.

Casey Holdahl said...

Patrick: You're right on about perimeter defense. Mike Born mentioned Tayshaun Prince, who is an elite defender, numerous times when talking about Batum. If Batum could work himself into a Prince-like defender, he'd end up being an important member of this team.

stiveun: Thanks for commenting! We're always happy to add another Blazers fan into the mix.

jayembe: I'm living in the past. Thanks for the correction.

chris5938: Dorsey might end up being a nice player, but he also seems to have a way of being around when fights break out:

As far as the rest of your comment, I'd have to disagree. Blake, Webster, Outlaw and Rodriguez do not suck. They might not ever be all-stars, but you don't need, nor would you really want, a lineup of all-stars.

And then saying we should have taken Hairston? I like Malik, but he's one of the most maddening players I've ever watched. He should have been dominate at Oregon. Not to mention that he too will never be an all-star.

BRye said...

Chris, you say you want to get rid of Blake, Webster, Sergio and Outlaw because they will never be allstars, yet you want Dorsey and Hairston. That is very curious.

Neither Dorsey or Hairston are likely to have the impact on the NBA that Blake and Outlaw already have had in their short careers so far.

michael murr said...

joey dorsey would have been a strong defensive and rebounding presense for our team. don't trade Outlaw or Webster their up sides are too good. stick with what we have and we will be one of the top teams in the league for years to come. go blazers beat the lakers

Filter said...

Batum's game seems to be underdeveloped for him to see much action in the NBA right now, particularly for a team that already has so many young players that need minutes to develop. The question is then, will he get the kind of coaching and minutes he needs to improve his game to that of an NBA role player if he stays in Europe? I'm not sure, and it's not clear the Blazers have made that call yet either.

But I can say this - they should not have brought over and signed Sergio when they did. It was a mistake for both parties - he did not (and still does not) have an NBA ready game in terms of shooting and defense, and riding the pine in Portland the past couple years have not made him the player that either he or the team had hoped for. If the Blazers had it to do over, they would have left him in Europe.

Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself with Batum.

Arnaud said...

Hi everybody,

Like stiveun , I'm from Le Mans in France.
Batum is one of the most impressive player of his age, I've ever seen. He is a quick player, he has the ability to create shots, he is also a good defender (I think he will be one of the best defender of the league in few year). He has a good vision of the game, he has also a good passing game ...
I think the profile of Batum is a bit similar as Rudy Gay, not as explosive as him, but he got the same physical skills.

The only thing I don't get is why Portland wanted to trade Batum while your team is quite good at the same position with Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster? Ar you sure Patrick Webster or Outlaw will be traded?

ripcitym said...

So, when do you think the trade for #25 was agreed on? I thought that having Arthur fall to #27 was a stroke of luck for the Blazers, and kind of think we should have kept him. It will be interesting to see who becomes a better NBA player between the two.

JohnVM said...

ripcitym, It's Martell Webster... (not Patrick) thanks for visiting. The big rumor is that Martell may be traded, but I seriously doubt it. And Outlaw isn't going anywhere... Welcome aboard! Batum is bringing some excitement around here!

Harry said...

i was surprised to see blazers let go of Arthur and Dorsey. they cannot depend on Oden alone and lost a lot of rebounds in the paint all year. either would have been a strong addition and boston clearly showed that defense and rebounds can stop LA. but Kevin was on the interview with the Fan two days ago and basically gambled that neither Dorsey or Arthur add much to what we already has., he is gambling that at big forward Aldridge will only get stronger and meaner, and is willing to let the two uppeclassmen forwrds drop away for a shot at Batum and his scoring and defense potential. i hope the gamble pays off we would be destroying teams for years if Batum develops like they hope he will.