Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/20/13
2c
No regrets here The Portland Trail Blazers had a big decision to make this past summer surrounding small forward Nicolas Batum. The Minnesota Timberwolves made him a four-year, $45 million offer, and Portland had to choose whether they wanted to risk overspending, or risk losing a great player by letting him walk. The Blazers chose to take a chance and spend the money, and Nicolas Batum is proving to be worth every cent at this point in the season. Before and After The easiest way to evaluate any given player is by looking at the numbers. Last season, Batum averaged a lackluster 13.9 points per game. He was not a consistent starter at the time, but even playing as the starting small forward, he only boosted that number up to 14.4. This season, the forward is averaging an impressive 17.1 points per contest. He has bumped himself up to third on the team in scoring, and he is a reliable shooter from almost anywhere on the floor. But a player’s success is decided by more than just scoring, and Batum has finally started to round out his game like we all hoped he would. Nicolas Batum has earned his contract. (Photo: Tony Dejak/AP) Having played on the perimeter most of his career, Batum has never been known as much of a rebounder. This season, though, he has his rebounding numbers up to nearly six per game, and he’s showing that he can assert himself down low on both ends of the floor. When it comes to being more involved in the offense, the old critique used to be that he simply stood in the corner and waited for someone to pass him the ball. Blame Nate McMillan and his offensive system if you want, but the 6’8” small forward simply didn’t play with the kind of aggression you want to see—at least on a regular basis. Now, Batum looks like an entirely different player. With the freedom to control the ball at the top, Batum is showing that he can run the pick-and-roll and that he can take control of the offense. He’s averaging an impressive 4.3 assists per game, which is among the best in the NBA for small forwards—he is second only to LeBron James. The fear with any big contract is that once a player gets his money, he’s going to stop trying. But with Batum, it’s been quite the opposite. The firing of coach McMillan took a lot of people by surprise last season, but it’s looking like that move is exactly what Batum needed to finally emerge. Terry Stotts has shown that he’s willing to give the forward a chance, and the 24-year-old appears to be taking full advantage. The Future When you give a player a big contract, you don’t pay him based on his past experience. You pay him based on his future expectations. The Blazers expected great things out of Batum, and so far, he’s heading in the right direction. Batum has been shuffled in and out of the starting lineup his entire career, but it’s safe to say that the small forward spot is his to claim as long as he remains in Rip City. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Ukwuachu rape victim hires firm that prosecuted Winston

Leo Santa Cruz tops Abner Mares in slugfest

WATCH: Beckham makes great grab over Revis

SEC commissioner wrote classy note to injured Arkansas RB

John Daly taken to hospital after collapsing on course

Rex Ryan keeping Bills' starting quarterback a secret

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Braves fan dies after falling from upper deck

Randall Cobb suffers shoulder injury vs. Eagles

WATCH: John Harbaugh, Jay Gruden get into shouting match

WATCH: Brian Hartline drags toes on great TD catch

Julio Jones, Falcons agree on 5-year contract extension

WATCH: Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion blasts three homers, extends hit streak

WATCH: Ricardo Mayorga taunts Shane Mosley in ring, loses

Will Jimmer Fredette find success with Spurs?

Every NBA division's most interesting rookie for 2015-16

American Pharoah upset at Travers Stakes

Steve Smith joins family in stands after getting ejected from game

WATCH: Cordarrelle Patterson rips off 107-yard return TD

Steve Sarkisian giving up most of USC's playcalling duties

Animal shelter cancels fundraiser at Heinz Field

Mets acquire RP Addison Reed from Diamondbacks

WATCH: James Rodriguez scores unreal goals

Vin Scully: I believe next year will be my last

Charles Barkley wants to blow his former agent’s brains out

The Texas Rangers are firing on all cylinders

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Every NBA division's most interesting rookie for 2015-16

Fantasy football round-by-round draft strategy

Ronda Rousey's Carl’s Jr. ad

The WWE Divas Revolution is getting ugly

The NFL’s season kickoff isn’t going as planned, but plans don’t matter in the NFL

The Opening Drive: What happened to all the great Michigan tailbacks?

The 1980s Lakers represent the NBA’s ultimate creation story

The Orioles’ frustrating season

Five greatest NBA players of all-time

Finding signs of life for the Red Sox

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker