Nicolas Batum’s scoring outbursts indicate star potential


After struggling to find his shooting stroke and offensive game in the first seven games of the FIBA World Cup. Trail Blazers’ forward Nicolas Batum broke out of his slump with monster performances of 35 points and 27 points in back-to-back games to lead France to a third place finish.

In recent memory, stars have emerged from the last few major international tournaments. In the 2008 Olympics, LeBron James led the way for the United States. In the 2010 World Championships, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant each had breakout performance’s that resonated their stardom.

It will be interesting to see how Batum’s performance– successful when it counted– will impact him for the upcoming NBA season. Without their two best players, Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, this French team is a middle-of-the-pack international team, top to bottom. Batum’s scoring explosion when France needed him was good enough to win the bronze, and nearly led to a shot at the USA in the Gold Medal game.

Two weeks ago, Rip City Project’s Jason Hortsch wrote at length about the Trail Blazers’ need for another All-Star. With the way Batum played in France’s final two games, he might be that guy Portland is looking for.

Early on in the tournament, Batum was passive and comfortable playing a primarily defensive role. In the semifinals and third-place game, Batum had a different mindset and it turned into an offensive awakening. If France was going to lose, it wasn’t going to be because Batum didn’t score. He made that clear. We saw a different side of Batum than we have in the last few seasons with the Trail Blazers. He was aggressive and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger from deep.

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Batum is one of my favorite players, and I think his game fits perfectly with the Trail Blazers, but there has always been room for improvement. When he is in rhythm and in the zone, I would like to see Portland go to him on offense more often– especially out of the pick & roll, the way he was used against Serbia and Lithuania.

If the Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts begins using Batum as more of a scorer in order to lighten the load for Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, who knows how good the Trail Blazers can eventually be? Last season, Batum’s season-high in points was 23. He did it twice. Batum also only attempted 15 or more shots from the field eight times in the 2013-14 season. In those games, Batum only shot less than 45 percent twice. For a player who averaged 13.0 PPG, he displayed more consistency than expected in the rhythm of volume shooting situations.

Batum may have found something special in his last two games of the FIBA World Cup. Hopefully, he’ll be able to draw on that experience and use it next season for Portland. He’s definitely good enough to explode like he did in FIBA; he just needs the opportunity.

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