During the offseason, there was chatter all across Portland and all around the league about whether Nicolas Batum was worth a $40 million dollar contract. Well as of November 16th, he has quieted a lot of that chatter.
The big crack on Batum has always been inconsistency and shrinking in big games. So far this season, he has been spectacular, especially against Houston on Friday night.
After the dust settled from the overtime victory, Batum had an All-Star caliber stat-line. He racked up a new career high 35 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 blocks and a steal.
Down the stretch, he made huge plays to help the Blazers win. In overtime, Batum made a huge block on James Harden that really turned up the volume in the Rose Garden.
I realize this is only one game and his consistency as a scorer can still be questioned but this season he has been filling up the stat sheet like very few do. He is such a factor in every aspect of the game. His defense on Harden and Chandler Parsons was on point all night to go along with his 13-19 shooting.
The last year or so, I have done very little to hide the fact that I am a Batum believer and I'm not going to start now. I really do think he can fill a lot of the void that Brandon Roy left on this team. I think Batum even adds more to the team on the defensive end of the floor than Roy ever did.
Batum was MVP of the game Friday night but that shouldn't overshadow the fact the Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge had huge games as well.
Lillard finished with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He also sent shockwaves through Jeremy Lin's ankles when he made him look absolutely silly on a crossover step back at the end of the fourth quarter.
Aldridge finished with 29 points and 6 rebounds in a very solid game. He shot 11-19 from the field and 7-9 from the line. His shot selection was much more solid than it has in games past and getting to the line is going to be a key to Blazer victories all year.
As the season goes on, I will still preach that Batum is a very, very solid building block for this franchise. This night though, I was blessed to be a spectator in a very rowdy Rose Garden and witness along with thousands, the best game of his career. His game is in an upward swing and I really think he will be the NBA Most Improved player this year.
Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett