Nic Batum: The Upside of Winning

Standard

The old man places his grandson on his knee. “Child, let me tell you about the good old days. The days filled with happiness and excitement. Our team had just drafted a nineteen year old kid – a freshmen, just out of college. Boy, you shoulda seen that kid’s upside.”

The child looks up at his grandfather, puzzled. “What’s ‘upside’?”

The old man gets a twinkle in his eye. “Why, upside is – well, it’s hope. It’s the feeling that eventually this young man will be very good and lead us to the promised land.”

The boy is sharp. His mind sorts out the logic. “Well did he? Did he turn out good and lead us to the promised land?”

“No. No that never happened. But man, you shoulda seen his upside.”


I.

It’s the day of the Draft. Fans are obsessed with potential. It’s fun. For a while. And then it’s not. We want to see results. Fans will not reminisce into their twilight years about Steph Curry’s upside. They will reminisce about his MVP season, his championship season. In fact, Curry never really had any upside as a junior coming out of Davidson. He was a physically limited combo guard who could really shoot. Crazy measurables? Hardly. Now he’s a champ.

The Hornets haven’t won 50 games since the late ‘90s. I remember those teams but I’m also closer to forty than thirty. So many younger Charlotte NBA hoops fans have never known what it’s like to cheer for a winning team. Michael Jordan has decided that it’s time to change that. Immediately.

II.

Nic Batum can pass and shoot. Two things the Hornets struggled with mightily last season. A team starting Kemba Walker at point guard needs a wing compatriot who can facilitate in the half-court and defend. A team with Al Jefferson at center needs a wing compatriot who can stretch the floor, complete entry passes and keep his man from running free into the paint. Batum checks all of these boxes. All of them. I posited a Batum trade two weeks ago for these very reasons. If Charlotte is intent on building around Kemba and Al, then adding a player like Nic is non-negotiable. The system simply won’t work without one.

III.

This trade is impossible to grade until you know two things: A.) Noah Vonleh’s realized upside and B.) Nic Batum’s next contract. Noah was a consensus Lottery pick last year for a reason. He’s a physically gifted (if non-athletic) big man who can score in a variety of ways. He can rebound and block shots. He might be a star. We don’t know. Coach Clifford rarely played him last season and immediately after the trade there was some chatter that Charlotte found his inability to grasp basics of the NBA game worrisome. He’s still only nineteen years old so it may take several more years before we know exactly what the Hornets gave up.

In the meantime Batum is on an expiring contract. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next season and can walk freely. Sure, Charlotte will have his “Bird Rights” but given the landscape of the new CBA, that really doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps Rich Cho and Nic’s people have some sort of understanding in place – sell Batum on Charlotte this season and reward him next July – again, we shall see. Hopefully Nic enjoys the Queen City more than the last French baller – Boris Diaw – who was so miserable in the South that he transformed into Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

IV.

All this said, it’s worth the risk. Batum and MKG on the wings is the East’s best defensive perimeter duo. Nic did wonders for Damian Lillard’s career as a secondary pick and roll ballhandler and he’ll do much the same for Kemba. Big Al has an underrated pick and pop shot out to around eighteen feet and Batum can run similar plays with Jefferson that he did with LaMarcus Aldridge. If the proposed Jeremy Lamb trade goes through, Clifford will almost certainly trot out MKG/Batum/Lamb/Kemba small ball lineups with either Spencer Hawes or Cody Zeller at center. The sort of ball movement and shot-making these lineups produce will leave Hornets fans confused, wondering if they’d mistakenly tuned into a Western Conference team instead.

V.

Finally, they’re not finished. The Draft is tonight and the Hornets love making trades. Expect the unexpected. Draft Frank Kaminsky? Why not. Trade him to the New York Knicks? Why not. Trade him in a package for Carmelo Anthony? At this point, why not. Michael Jordan wants his team to win games and make this city proud again. Unlimited Upside? Defiantly no. The Upside of Winning is so much sweeter.

-ASChin
@baselinebuzz

Blazers Use Depth to Hammer Bobcats 7-Man Rotation

Standard

Bobcats Baseline Observations: Charlotte @ Portland 2/1/10

No running diary tonight as I’m furiously preparing and packing for a trip to Western Australia (or “WA” as the locals call it).

Bobcats end a three game road winning streak against the Blazers at the Rose Garden 98-79.  AP recap here.  Box score here.

Simple Arithmetic

When you commit 21 turnovers on the road while launching a barrage of errant three pointers (6-23 for 26%) and allow your opponent to drop 53% shooting on you WITHOUT their best player AND their two centers, you are going to lose.  Bad.

The Bobcats (mostly) seven man rotation looked tired against a deep Portland team, settling for long jump shots and lazy passes.  Boris Diaw was a major culprit in the TO department, logging 5 while maintaining his “Laissez Faire” status.  Stephen Jackson and Flip Murray shot a combined 4-13 from behind the arc.  Ouch.

While it’s amazing that Portland can still trot out 9 quality players while missing three of their top 8 talents to injury (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Joel Pryzbilla), it’s perhaps more astonishing that Larry Brown insists on going with an EXTRA-abbreviated bench five games into a six game West Coast road trip.  The ‘Cats looked tired and uninterested for most of the game outside of a nice 10-0 rally late in the third.  Let’s hope that they were just saving their legs for another Lakers upset Wednesday night in LA.

Bullets

  • For those of you hoping for a D.J. Augustin Renaissance, don’t hold your breath.  D.J. continues to turn the tables on an excellent rookie campaign.  17 minutes, 0-5 (0-4 from three), 2 assists, 1 turnover, -9 plus/minus.  I hope his Junior Rebound is as dramatic as his Sophomore Slump.
  • The Portland crowd is one of the top 3 in the League without a doubt.  It sounded like a Playoff game in there tonight.  Can’t help but believe the Bobcats players felt a little jealous hearing and seeing this.  C’mon Charlotte!  Let’s re-create the Hive!
  • The Blazers Nic Batum and Martell Webster, two players who have been mentioned in Bobcats trade rumors for years, played great tonight, torching the ‘Cats D from the outside for a combined 25 points.  The ‘Cats have never had one of those long, silky smooth jump shooters.  Wonder how long that will last?  Rod Higgidy-Higgins?  Anybody?
  • Not to keep ripping on D.J. but aside from Brook Lopez (I won’t go there again), we can now easily make the case that the team should have drafted Jerryd Bayless instead.  Bayless seems to be everything that Augustin isn’t: explosive scoring mini-2-guard who can drive and shoot.  At 6’3″, 200 Bayless is bigger than Augustin and much less of a defensive liability.  Seriously, Michael Jordan should bring in a specialist DRAFT DAY GM.  Isiah Thomas is out there somewhere in rehab.  Let’s do this!

Until next time…Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin