On Saturday night Nicolas Batum led the Portland Trail Blazers to a trouncing 110-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Under most circumstances, this would be news unworthy of more than a passing mention. The young Frenchman’s play in the win was however, definitely worthy of further analysis.
Batum put up 31 points (11/16 FG, 5/8 3PT, 4/4 FT), seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and zero turnovers in 29 minutes as the starting small forward. Startling numbers for a player that is only 21 years old, in his 96th NBA game and who had his season-start curtailed through injury.
More than this however, Batum’s performance has historic implications. Various combinations of the statistics in his line that night were unprecedented in NBA history.
#1 — 31 PTS / 7 REB / 7 AST / 3 STL / 5 3PTM / 0 TO : No player before Batum has EVER put up this statistical line or better in those categories in one NBA game. Not LeBron James. Not Kobe Bryant. Not Michael Jordan. “Frenchy88” (as his custom-made adidas shoes are labelled) is the only player to have ever performed this multi-faceted display in an NBA game. Tracy McGrady was arguably the closest, with 36pts, 7reb, 9ast, 2stl, 5 3PTM, 0TO on December 15, 2001 for Orlando vs Portland.
#2 — 31 PTS / 7 REB / 7 AST / 3 STL / 5 3PTM : Numerous players have put this line together in the past, but Batum is the youngest ever to do so, at 21 years and 75 days of age. The next closest in age was Gilbert Arenas who managed it at 21 years and 309 days, followed by Golden State Warriors rookie sensation Stephen Curry, at 21 years 333 days.
#3 — 31 PTS / 7 REB / 7 AST / 3STL / 29 MIN : No player has EVER* achieved this statistical line in so few minutes. Of the 262 players since 1986-87 to put up 31/7/7/3, Fat Lever was the nearest to Batum in taking 33 minutes to get there.
#4 — 31 PTS / 7 REB / 7 AST / 3 STL : Once again in good company, the only players to be younger* than Batum in achieving this feat were LeBron James (four times) and Kevin Durant (once). Not a bad group to be mentioned amongst.
*A proviso needs to be attached to these last two statistical rankings (#3 and #4), in that the available data (via Basketball-Reference.com) only goes as far back as the 1986-87 NBA season — therefore there may have been earlier examples of a line such as this being achieved by younger players. With regard to the statistical lines mentioned earlier in the piece (#1 and #2) my research finds it unlikely any inaccuracies exist, due to the fact that the NBA only adopted the three-point shot in the 1979-80 season, with the only player under the age of 22 hitting more than 30 threes in a season during the period 1979-1986 occurring when Isiah Thomas made 36 as a 21 year-old in 1982-83 season (hardly enough to find it likely that he made five in a game at any point — though not impossible). In addition, from 1979-1986, the use of the three-point shot was much less prolific — on only 22 occasions were more than 50 threes made by a player in a season, with a high of 92 by Darrell Griffith in 1984-85. In short, these statistical precedents are not iron-clad prior to 1986-87, but they are likely to be so.
Many in Portland have been predicting a bright future for this “Scottie-Pippen type” player since his arrival in Portland and immediate promotion to the starting lineup as a rookie. This type of play shows that he is ready to be a contributor for a Blazers team that has had its fair share of hardships this season. Perhaps the only person who may feel some slight feeling of anguish under the circumstances is Martell Webster, who has lost his starting role and his rhythm with the re-arrival of Batum. Webster continues to strive hard in doing the little things however and managed to grab seven rebounds against Minnesota, despite his shot being off.
Meanwhile, Rudy Fernandez has continued to pull out of his funk with 18 points and four rebounds in the win. More thoughts on Fernandez here.