by Chris Camello (@chris_Camello)
LOS ANGELES — One of the more underrated signings the Los Angeles Clippers had this off season was the addition of veteran swingman Nicolas Batum to provide some depth at the wing position.
While many questioned what Batum had left in the tank after an injury riddled 2020 season, the fact is when healthy, his versatility, length, defense, shooting, and playmaking are tremendous assets.
Batum was seen as a bust after never living up to that enormous, 5-year, $120 million deal given to him by Charlotte Hornets governor Michael Jordan in 2016. His numbers steadily declined each year of that contract as did his durability. Some could even question whether he should’ve gotten a mega deal like that in the first place considering he’s never even been an All-Star.
It got to the point that Charlotte cut ties with him completely heading into the final year of that albatross contract. However, that didn’t mean contending teams weren’t willing to take a flyer on a healthy Batum, knowing he was going to come cheap and motivated to re-establish himself as a quality role player.
The 32-year-old Frenchman seems to have been a solid fit for the Clippers, especially in the starting lineup complimenting stars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with his floor spacing, unselfish playmaking, and defense.
“He’s a big piece,” George said of Batum. “He can do a little bit of everything at a high level and he just takes a lot of pressure off of us from defending and playmaking.”
His numbers have also been solid averaging 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from three-point range and 51 percent from the field. So it’s not just the intangibles he’s providing, Batum is stuffing the stat sheet every night showing he’s like a Swiss-Army knife.
“If I can come in help the team and play as hard as I can and do little stuff to help the team win games, I’m going to do it,” Batum said.
One of the issues with the Clippers last season was a lack of cohesion. Batum spoke about being how the team’s chemistry and bonding is coming along this year.
“It’s easy to bond because we have a lot of practice time, we stick together on the road,” Batum said after practice this week. “We’ve been on the road a lot the last 10 days, so it’s easy to bond because we have the same goals. It’s not difficult actually.”
Batum has reminded people when healthy, he’s the type of steady, experienced, and versatile wing player that most contending teams need on their roster. Hopefully, his early season success will endure throughout the entire year because the Clippers are going to need it in this competitive Western Conference.