If Nicolas Batum is able to replicate what Josh McRoberts did in the 2013-2014 season, the Charlotte Hornets can be a playoff team again. Obviously the Hornets hope that’s not the ceiling of what Batum can accomplish, but it’s unlikely that they’ll get anything substantially more. Batum is a versatile wing who can serve as a point forward and 3-and-D guy, but he’s never been classified as a scorer, as he has a career scoring average of 11.2 points per game (PPG). He’s a playmaker, and that’s exatly what the Hornets need.
To be clear, Batum is a far superior player to McRoberts, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted what McRoberts did for Charlotte. McRoberts was able to leverage floor spacing for Charlotte using his passing and recently improved three-point shooting. The team had an offensive rating of 103.4 with him on the floor as opposed to 98.3 with him off the floor. He assisted on 21.9 percent of his teammates’ made field goals. To say he was integral to the team would be an understatement.
The team tried to replace McBob with Marvin Williams when he left for Miami, but that didn’t work out so well. Admittedly, the team dealt with multiple injuries to key players and Lance Stephenson being Lance Stephenson last season. However, the team still had a terrible offense when everyone was healthy and Stephenson was benched. Ultimately, Charlotte’s biggest problem was the fact that only one of its players could consistently act as either a perimeter scorer or facilitator.
Kemba Walker has performed admirably as Charlotte’s primary ball handler and playmaker over the last few seasons, but he’ll always be a scorer at heart. That can be said about multiple point guards in the league, but even they manage to get superior assist numbers; Walker’s highest per game assist numbers came in 2013-214 with 6.1. His assist percentage is monstrous, but that might be just a consequence of his high usage. This isn’t meant as a critique of Walker, but as recognition of his limitations.
Batum can help take the pressure off Walker by acting as another ball handler and playmaker a portion, if not the majority, of the time. Walker can focus on scoring more efficiently as opposed to taking bad shots because he has no other option. And as well as being a good creator, Batum brings the team some much needed three-point shooting.
Batum was critical to the Portland Trail Blazers as a secondary playmaker. His vision and ball handling ability allowed Damian Lillard some rest and to play off the ball. While he was on the court, the Trail Blazers had an offensive rating of 107.2 last season and 109.9 in the 2013-2014 season. Over the last three seasons, he has assisted on 20.6 percent of his teammates’ baskets. He’s an adept and creative passer:
Batum’s overall play did take a step back last year, as his field goal percentage, three-point percentage and scoring average were all career lows. That’s considered more of an anomaly though because he was dealing with a lingering wrist injury as well as some off-court issues. Now, Batum will be trusted to act as a facilitator while being a third-scoring option behind Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. He may not rack up big point totals, but he can affect the game with the rest of his skills.