Tag: Nic Batum

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers

Portland trades Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson


UPDATE 9:08 pm: It has become official, the trade announced by the Portland Trail Blazers. It was as reported, with Nicolas Batum going to Charlotte and Noah Vonleh and guard Gerald Henderson.

“Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success,” Portland GM Neil Olshey said in a released statement. “He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future.”

7: 29 pm: Is this a signal that the Portland Trail Blazers think LaMarcus Aldridge is leaving as a free agent, and it’s time to rebuild for the future around Damian Lillard?

It’s too early to say with any certainty, but this trade about to be finalized and reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports certainly feels like it could be the first step in that direction.

Of course, the Blazers say this is not the first step in a rebuild.

Charlotte had been shopping Cody Zeller in search of wing help, but Portland clearly preferred the the younger, cheaper four on the Hornet roster.

I like this trade for Charlotte. This is a team that was 30th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, plus a team that took a step back defensively last season. Nicolas Batum can help on both those fronts if healthy. The Frenchman struggled some last season battling injuries, and eventually needed wrist surgery, however, he is expected to be healthy for the start of next season. He is set to make $12.2 million in the last year of his deal.

The buzz is that this means Charlotte will take Frank Kaminsky at the No. 9 pick. He could be the kind of pick-and-pop four they hoped Noah Vonleh would develop into.

And he still might. Vonleh is still a teenager, a guy who always was going to need some time to develop, and now Portland will have him on his rookie contract to make that happen. Vonleh is seen as a potential four who can stretch the floor, but Charlotte had concerns about his defensive awareness. The Trail Blazers also pick up a solid veteran rotation guard in Gerald Henderson. They also save about $3.5 million in cap space that can go to luring free agents.

This just doesn’t feel like the kind of trade a win-now team would make, and Portland with Aldridge would be a win-now team. It makes you wonder what they know, and what’s next.

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: The Portland Trail Blazers

Hornets Trail Blazers Basketball
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Last Season: The Blazers spent the first half of the season threatening for a playoff spot, but one of the worst benches in NBA history ultimately sunk the team’s chances. Damian Lillard’s scoring prowess made him the fourth unanimous Rookie of the Year winner in NBA history, and it simulatenously provided hope that Portland’s current core can contend in the near future.

Signature Highlight: It feels dirty not to have a Lillard or LaMarcus Aldridge highlight here, but by golly gee, this dunk from J.J. Hickson was one of the best of the year.

Key Player Changes:

IN: Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Earl Watson

OUT: J.J. Hickson (Denver), Eric Maynor (Washington), Luke Babbitt, Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavolvic, Ronnie Price

General manager Neil Olshey pulled off some sneaky tanking last year by cobbling together an awful bench with multiple players who won’t even play in the league this season. After hitting on Lillard in the draft, it looked like the Trail Blazers might have stolen another underrated small school grad to slot in as a scoring sixth man. Unfortunately, though, C.J. McCollum’s foot injury will keep him out of action indefinitely.

Adding Thomas Robinson was an incredibly low-risk, high-reward move, as his energy and rebounding should be a welcome sight coming off the bench. Robinson will likely never be a star, but he could carve out a solid role.

If Dorell Wright’s outside shooting returns to form, he could be a steal as a versatile 3 and D guy. Mo Williams is an extremely good shooter and a decent point guard to boot, but he needs to be hidden defensively at all times.

Robin Lopez might be the addition with the biggest impact, as his pure size should help the Blazers control the paint defensively much better than last season.

Losing J.J. Hickson doesn’t hurt nearly as much as his overall numbers would indicate. Hickson was defensive poison as a center last season, and it’s telling that the Blazers were unable to flip him for any asset while he was putting up grossly inflated stats.

Keys to Portland’s Season:

1) Can an improved bench make that much of a difference?

After running his starters into the ground by necessity last season, Terry Stotts can ease off the reins a bit and trust what should be a very capable bench. The on/off ratings for Aldridge (+9.4 points per 100 possessions) and Lillard (+9.1 points per 100 possessions) illustrate just how bad Portland’s reserve unit was last year, and the heavy minutes took a toll late in the season when the defense completely collapsed.

2) Will the defense improve?

Although he’s a plodder, Robin Lopez should plug a few more gaps in this leaky defense. Matthews is still the team’s best defender despite Batum’s reputation, but a lot of the responsibility boils down to Lillard and Aldridge, who need to stop reserving so much energy for offense and start defending pick-and-roll action better.

The Blazers finished 26th in defensive efficiency last season, so there’s certainly plenty of room for improvement here. The starting unit should be explosive, but below-average defensive teams traditionally have a much harder time making the playoffs than below-average offensive teams. The Blazers have to get better here in order to fight for the 8-seed.

3) Which unexpected source can provide the lift?

It’s time for Nic Batum to live up to his potential, as he’s the player who needs to make the biggest leap on both ends for the Blazers to truly be competitive. We know what we’re getting from LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews at this point, and it’s hard to imagine Lillard being significantly better (at least offensively) in his second year.

Perhaps Lopez or Robinson can surprise and add big contributions as well, but Batum is paid too much money to simply be a very good complementary player. The additions of an improved bench and a defensive-minded center can put the Blazers in the playoff conversation alone, but Batum’s continued development as a secondary creator (his assists shot up to 4.9 a game last year) and locked-in defender has to be there.

Why You Should Watch: Damian Lillard is the definition of smooth. Robin Lopez’s hair is the best in the business. LaMarcus Aldridge has three moves he just pairs over and over again, and no one can stop it.  Nic Batum in transition is an adventure. J.J. Hickson and his defense won’t make your eyes bleed anymore.

Prediction: 41-41 and the 9th seed. The Blazers should be able to beat out the other hapless defensive teams vying for the final playoff spot (Mavericks, Lakers), and the talent meshes better in Portland than it likely will in New Orleans. A healthy Minnesota team (oxy-moron?) is my choice for the 8th spot however, as they were much better defensively last year despite massive injuries. I need to see Portland’s defense improve drastically before I can fully believe they are a playoff team.

Three Stars of the Night: Upset Edition

Kevin Durant, Scott Brooks

So, who had the Bobcats, Magic, Bucks and Knicks all winning tonight? Of course you did. There were lots of upsets around the league, but who are the PBT Three Stars of the Night? Who is hanging out with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in the record books? And where in the world is Carmen San Diego?  We’ve got Three Stars (and most of the answers) right here:

Third Star: Kemba Walker (30 points on 10-for-21 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)

The nice thing about a new coach is you get a fresh start, and really, you have the green light until it’s taken away. Kemba Walker shot 36% from the field in his rookie year, and as a 6-foot-1 scoring guard, the degree of difficulty on many of his shots last year ranged from tough to impossible. But it’s a new year, and with defensive guru Mike Dunlap scheming to keep the Pacers off balance tonight, it was Walker who shouldered the load offensively by drawing fouls and being aggressive off the bounce.

Second Star: Kevin Durant (23 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists)

Barbershop, pickup game, school – if you’re an NBA fan, you’ve had the argument. Who is the best player in the league? There’s the “count the rings!” contingent that still think that it’s Kobe, and the “he’s not clutch!” group who rally against LeBron. And even though everyone loves Kevin Durant, the knock on him is that “all he does is score.” Well, uh, no. Durant may not be the overall talent LeBron is (newsflash: no one is) but let’s not push him as a one-dimensional player, either. Durant put everything on display tonight, gobbling up 17 rebounds and forcing a pretty good player in Nic Batum into a 1-for-11 outing.

First Star: James Harden (45 points on 14-for-19 shooting, 7 rebounds)

Oh me, oh my. Not only did Harden set a new personal career high for points, but he also entered some rare territory only two of the NBA’s greatest players occupy. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored more than 82 points in the first two games of the season – and now Harden is right there with them. And don’t for a second think this is a guy chucking up shots on a bad team, because Harden scored his 45 points on only 19 attempts, and the Rockets got the win. With Jeremy Lin flirting with triple-doubles and Omer Asik wiping the glass clean, the Rockets could be a lot better a lot faster than just about anyone thought.