Unstoppable basketball blog With Malice is hosting a Mountain Dew “Voltage” themed competition, asking you the fan to name your Favourite Non-Superstar in the NBA.
Nicolas Batum has the voltage to win this one. Many outside of the ranks of Portland Trail Blazer fans may not know much about the young Frenchman who has become an immediate starter for the Blazers in his rookie season. Pau Gasol can tell you exactly how good this 6’8″ wiry 20 year old is, after being on the receiving end of two vicious dunks already this season.
First up was a fast break posterisation in January, on Gasol’s home court, as Batum’s arm just seemed to keep on extending.
Then in March, as the Blazers decidedly embarassed the Lakers, Batum put on a flurry of dunks, including the one pictured at the top of this page. The plucky Frenchman even managed to remind Gasol that it was the second time he had bettered him, with a two-finger salute (you might want to turn down the music on this video, I did).
However, to focus on Batum’s dunking ability would be to lose sight of the real beauty of this young player. He possesses a certain finesse on the court that is rare — particularly in this era. His body control, for a player of his age, is almost incomprehensible. He is the type of player that makes you glue your eyes to him, waiting to see what he will do next. Batum promises a level of constant improvement and potential for ascension that is almost sacrilegious to mention outside the ranks of the LeBrons and CP3s of this league.
Whilst the youngster from Lisieux may never blossom into a superstar or even an All-Star, he provides the whiff of promise that he just may. How many teams can boast a player of that pedigree, as arguably their ninth or tenth best player?
Blazers coach Nate McMillan trusted Batum enough to install him as the starting small forward in only his fourth ever regular season game — a decision as much hinged in keeping Portland’s bench crew together as it is a vote of confidence in Batum’s future as a fixture in this league.
It is on the defensive end where the swingman’s value begins. Already in his short career he has been entrusted with guarding LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Indeed, Batum has not embarassed himself in his assignments, whilst he learns the ropes of the NBA. He is undeniably a boy amongst men and has as many uninspiring games as he does brilliant ones. However the flashes leave you wanting to see more of this defensive whiz whose ceiling could be on par with any defensive stopper you can name in recent times.
His game is built on both instincts and athleticism and a clear desire to improve. He is not a Generation Y player who wants adulation, rarely showing emotion on the court. Rather, Batum appears to be locked in the moment, putting his all into improvement and stopping his man.
Going back to November 12th, Batum had already claimed Dwyane Wade’s scalp with a nice fast break block — a taste of things to come.
His 2008-09 numbers will not leave you gobsmacked, but if you’re a basketball purist, his game will. That is what makes Nicolas Batum an A Stern Warning favourite and the site’s nomination for Favourite Non-Superstar.
Check out the other entries at With Malice.