A while back I was posed a question that gave me pause. I hesitated a moment before giving my answer. My answer was “Nicolas Batum.” The question: If I was the Blazers general manager and I could only keep either Batum or Gerald Wallace, who would I choose to keep? I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this the guy who just a couple of weeks ago wrote an apology to Gerald Wallace for doubting him? Yes, I am that guy, and no, my feelings about Mr. Wallace have not changed. I still feel that Gerald is an absolutely fantastic player whose value to the Trail Blazers cannot be overstated. If there is a way to keep both Batum and Wallace on the roster the Blazers have to do it. I just feel that Batum needs to be considered a cornerstone on the roster. Every team has a list of players that they aren’t willing to trade away, I call them “untouchable players” and I believe that Batum needs to be considered an untouchable player.
Wednesday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors was an awesome example of why I believe that Batum needs to be on the team for years to come. He’s an absolute physical freak. He is a master of the chase down block, a play that can only be made by those who are ridiculously athletic. There may be only one player in the league who is better than him at making the chase down block, and that’s LeBron James. Batum scares people when they get the ball on the break. With Batum on the court, you see players like Stephen Curry looking back as they run out ahead of the pack. He’s earned a reputation for himself that makes players scared to have the ball in their hands and a clear path to the hoop. They turn back, their eyes get wide and Batum puts the ball out of bounds. Having a guy with that reputation is an awesome asset for a team. A guy who can pull off the chase down block makes opposing players hesitate, and hesitation is not good, no matter what sport you play.
Batum has more going for him than his freakish physical abilities. He plays great defense, not just in the open court. His long limbs certainly help make him a great defender but that’s not where his defensive prowess comes from. He plays great defense for much the same reason that Gerald Wallace plays great defense. He wants to play great defense therefore he plays great defense. Batum can lock down an opposing teams star. If he is called on to do so he will push himself over his limits in order to do what he needs to do. On the offensive side of the ball, Batum is not exactly a liability. When he’s confident in himself he shoots the three well. When he shoots the three well he gets opportunities to get to the rim. When he gets to the rim he’s going to score. He can slash through to the paint and score any time the Blazers need him to and that ability should allow other Blazers opportunities to score. One of the only reasons that Batum isn’t constantly putting up freakish offensive numbers is that he goes through periods where his confidence wavers.
I know I’ve been talking about Batum for this whole article and I have barely even mentioned Gerald Wallace. Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten the point of this article. I posed a question at the beginning of this article and have been building up to the answer by talking about Batum’s strengths. I think Gerald is a fantastic player and a great asset to the Blazers but the question posed was if I could only keep either Gerald Wallace or Nicolas Batum who would I choose. Both Batum and Gerald Wallace play really good half court defense and are offensive assets to team. There are two main reasons I would choose Batum over Wallace. The first is his ability to pull off one of the most athletically challenging plays in the game, the chase-down block. A single chase-down block can make a huge difference in the game. The second reason is a simple matter of age. Batum is six years younger than Wallace. Wallace plays a style of basketball that can’t maintain itself forever. Batum plays a similar style of ball but since he’s younger he’ll be able to play that same style of basketball for longer. I honestly believe both players are great and necessary for the Blazers success this year. The difference is that if the Blazers can only have one, I believe it has to be Batum.