“Nicolas will absolutely live up to this contract.”
These are the words of Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey after officially matching the offer that Nicolas Batum signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The deal is reportedly worth approximately $46 million over four years.
Double-digit millions is a lot of money for a player whose numbers have been decent at best, but the true value of a contract doesn’t stem from past production; it comes from how well the player can produce moving forward.
Up to this point, Batum’s role in Portland has been up in the air.
His aggressiveness has been called into question in the past, but consistency has been tough to come by having been taken in and out of the starting lineup and switched between small forward and shooting guard.
A little continuity goes a long way, and with the kind of money he’ll be making next season, you’d better believe that the starting small forward spot is his to claim.
We’ve all seen the way Batum can explode at the rim and hit shots coming off curls, but the way that Portland has historically stuck him in the corner as a spot-up shooter doesn’t showcase what he can do as a versatile perimeter player.
The Oregonian’s Jason Quick has reported that Batum will receive “more offensive freedom” next year, and if that ends up being the case, he’ll be given the opportunity to flourish in an offensive system other than Nate McMillan’s.
Having seen his point-per-game average rise every season throughout his young career, don’t be surprised to see him become a more reliable scorer with more responsibility.
Will he ever be a true second option to LaMarcus Aldridge? Maybe, maybe not.
But as a long, athletic presence on the perimeter, Batum has the potential to make a name for himself on defense even if he hits his offensive ceiling early in his career.
One steal and one block per game last year were decent numbers, but his talent and athleticism indicates he can have a much bigger impact. As long as he can stay aggressive, the minutes are going to be there and the production will follow.
Knock his contract if you’d like, but remember that Batum is just 23-years-old.
He has time to grow, and if his abilities are utilized the right way in Portland, he’s going to become a major component in leading the Blazers to success throughout the coming seasons.