France was upset for the second time in the EuroBasket tournament today, as they fell to the Lithuanian team 62-76. There was no clear leader for the French today. Tony Parker put up 11 points in 30 minutes of play, while Boris Diaw (yes, that Boris Diaw) acted as the team’s most valuable facilitator with 6 assists. In fact, Diaw was the only French player to exceed two dimes. Their team basketball was iffy to say the least.
But let’s not worry about that. What I’d like to look at is Nicolas Batum; specifically his shooting. Whether by some cosmic fluke or detailed science, his struggles have affected the French team in the same way they affect the Blazers. When Batum is on, the team does well, when he’s not… There are problems.
I think a big part of this is Batum’s caliber of play. He’s too good to be considered just a role player, but not good enough to be a team’s leader. He’s a high-level glue guy. When he’s on, it can push his team into the winner’s circle, but when he can’t get things going, the outcome is disastrous. It’s sort of a mid-level dependency. His consistency issues have been the biggest criticism lobbied against him when disapproving of his lucrative contract with Portland.
Today, Batum shot 3/10 from the field and 0/4 from deep, totaling 8 points on 30% shooting. He marked just 1 assist, paired with 3 turnovers. This was one of those days where he wasn’t on his game, and just like the Blazers, the French team paid for it. That isn’t to put the blame on Batum’s shoulders necessarily, but to identify a correlation.
Take France’s only other loss for instance. Their first game, they lost to Germany 74-80. Batum shot 4/11 from the field and 1/7 from deep, totaling 9 points on 36.4% shooting. That’s marginally better at best, and even Tony Parker’s efficient 18 points (6/12) couldn’t make up for lost opportunities on Batum’s end. Heck, the French team narrowly escaped the far inferior Ukraine, 77-71, when Nicolas went 2 for 8.
Compare these games to the ones in which Batum shot well. 7/10 (70%) against Great Britain? Blowout (88-65). 4/6 (66.7%) against Israel? Another blowout (82-63). What troubles me here, is that Batum seems to have about a 50/50 chance of shooting well each night. This isn’t to be confused with simply showing up, as he impacts every game with important blocks, steals, and passing, but his lack of consistent offensive production is concerning.
Each day moves us closer to another Blazer season, yet it is readily apparent that Batum’s biggest problem persists. I’ve spent too many nights wondering which Batum will show up to the game; borderline all-star, or competitive scrub. At his best, he’s a more accurate Andre Iguodala, but at his worst he’s a struggling Corey Brewer. That can make or break your team; be it in Slovenia or Portland. Hopefully, he’ll reach an ‘ah-ha’ moment, but I wouldn’t count on it by opening night.