We’ve reached the second-to-last entry of the Blazer Report Cards, after hitting the midway point in the last entry which saw J.J. Hickson receive a B and Meyers Leonard receive a C+. This time, we’ll get two international products at the small forward slot: Nicolas Batum and Victor Claver.
Nicolas Batum | #88 | Forward-Guard
Nicolas Batum had an interesting season, to say the least. He experienced highs and lows, and the end result was mostly good. There were plenty of things to like about his year, but at the same time, it really feels like Batum should’ve been able to do more than what he did–or in other words, what we’ve been saying for a long time.
Let’s look at Batum’s season averages. The 1.2 steals coupled with 1.1 blocks per game stand out visibly, as numbers that only Josh Smith and Kevin Durant managed to top. Even more impressive is the 2.3 threes made per game, which landed Batum in a four-way tie for 7th in the NBA. The 4.9 assists per game tripled his mark from last year, and combined with the 14.3 points and 5.4 rebounds, they’re indicative of Batum’s all-around talent. However, here’s the problem: Assists excluded, where’s the improvement?
Nic Batum has been a Blazer for a long time. He’s been with the organization for five seasons, to be exact. The team has taken its time developing the former 25th overall pick, with the hope that he could be a star one day. However, now 24 and nearing his prime, Batum has seemed to hit a snag in his development. Look at his per 36s, and compare them to past years. With the sole exception of assists, there’s been minimal improvement in the other areas of his game. In fact, there’s been regression in many places.
Batum was still a very serviceable core piece for Portland this season. His three-point shooting was part of a three-pronged perimeter attack from the Blazers this season, alongside Lillard and Wesley Matthews. He was the defensive star for Portland, and his athleticism and length were often a problem posed on the opposing team’s top player. His versatility was something the Blazers bandied about proudly, especially his huge improvements in passing the ball. However, the expectation for Batum was that he’d be more than a glorified 3-and-D player at this stage in his career.
There were highlights, plenty of them. Batum recorded two triple-doubles this season (in the same week, no less), and even a 5×5 game (5+ points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks). However, for every stretch there was to celebrate, there was a slump to bemoan. Batum’s inconsistency was a major trend to follow during this season for the Blazers. Some of it was blamed on a wrist injury, and that easily could’ve been responsible in part for an year that was still pretty good, all things considered. Unfortunately, the Blazers aren’t looking for pretty good. They’ll need great from Batum to move up the standings in the Western Conference, and they’re counting on him for great.
Maybe next year? We’ll have to hope so.
Victor Claver | #18 | Forward
This was the season that Portland finally brought their 22nd overall pick in 2009, Victor Claver, over from Spain. He was still very raw and it showed, but he was able to provide the shallow Blazers with a reasonably big body they could play for stretches.
However, there wasn’t much to comment on in the time he did play. Claver ran the floor pretty well, he contested shots, and he wasn’t afraid to get gritty around the hoop. He showed decent athleticism, an ability to do a bit of everything, and very few outstanding flaws. He was, in a word, useable.
That’s not to say, however, that Claver didn’t have any flaws at all. In fact, he was subpar in many areas of the game–just not outstandingly so. His shooting is the main glare, as his percentages were all awful, but he has great form and had decent percentages playing in the Euroleague, so the hope is that Claver can develop a little more confidence in his jumper as time goes on. The free throws look pretty bad, but he shot much closer to 65-70% overseas, and if he can revert to that mark (or improve on it), that’s at least acceptable.
Outside of shooting, Claver was inconsistent on the boards, passive with the ball, and a little careless with his passing. His impact on games was minimal at best. As someone who can be identified most as an “all-around” player, Claver will need to make improvements over a wide array of issues if he wants to succeed in the NBA. He has a decent physical profile, but he’s got a lot of work to do. This season, Portland used him in a bit role off of a relatively weak bench. They do hope he can be more than just that, but with Claver, nothing’s certain.