Portland Trail Blazers 2012-2013 Player Projections: Nicolas Batum

After shaking down the Blazers for a four-year, $46 million contract, the microscope isn’t focused more on any player on the roster than Nicolas Batum.

A restricted free agent in the off-season, Batum was tracked down, courted and pampered by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Portland came out on top, matching the T’Wolves’ insane offer and inking their versatile forward into the rotation for the next few years.

Now, it’s up to him to prove he’s worth the money and win the heart of the rowdy Rip City fan base back.

I believe he will.

Nic Batum’s stats have grown every year, capping off last season at 13.9 ppg with fluctuating minutes, roles and a mid-season coaching change. With a full-fledged coaching staff in place, Batum’s finally going to have his role as the starting small forward concretely defined. Luke Babbitt will get a few minutes here and there as the team’s three-point specialist, but the fourth-year French forward has now become the team’s shut-down defender and second scoring option behind LaMarcus Aldridge.

2012-2013 Season Projections: 16.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 2.0 STLPG, 1.3 BLKPG

It doesn’t seem like much of a jump on paper, but Nic Batum is going to have a breakout fifth season in the NBA. An impressive free throw and three-point shooter, the Frenchman will step into his role as the team’s wing scorer and give the Blazers that well-needed scoring boost.

Expect him to step up on defense, guarding each team’s best player, and to be more crafty on offense, specifically in creating space to get a bucket.

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