Nicolas Batum is a stringy 6-8 small forward from Lisieux, France. The 215lb, 19-year old has impressed many with his long wingspan, his abilities to drive to the hole and consistently hit jumpshots. With his height, Batum is able to play power forward; with his speed and athleticism, he can also slide down into a shooting guard role.
Back in 2006, Batum led the French U18 National Team to the by averaging 19.0 Points, 5.7 Rebounds, 2.6 Assists, 2.3 Steals and shooting 60.0 % from the field, in being named the most valuable player of the 2006 U18 Albert Schweitzer Tournament. He continued to make a splash in the 2007 Nike Hoops Summit by scoring 23 points against the likes of OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley Kevin Love, and Derrick Rose.
Because of these performances, the 6-8 Batum, along with Danilo Gallinari, were considered by many the two top European prospects coming into the 2008 NBA Draft. The Frenchmen was eventually selected in the first round, 25th overall by the Houston Rockets as the fourth international player chosen (after Gallinari, Alexis Ajinça, and Serge Ibaka).
The Rockets traded Batum’s rights to the Portland Trailblazers for fellow 2008 draftees Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey.
Batum will join a Blazer’s roster of up-and-coming talents with high expectations in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, and Martell Webster; fellow rookies Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez of Spain, and last year’s #1 overall pick Greg Oden.
Check out the following write-up in SLAM Magazine:
Say What? | SLAM Magazine | issue 118 (June 2008)
The French have a saying — je ne sais quoi — that translates, literally, into, “I don’t know what.” It’s used to refer to something when all other words fail, a phrase that encompass both insouciance and intangibles.
That phrase has been personified of late by Nicolas Batum. I was on hand for his debut in the French Ligue Nationale de Basket (LNB) All Star Game in Paris in December 2007, and while Batum played well, finishing with 12 points and 5 boards, and made a few creative plays, mostly he seemed tentative, like Boris Diaw was somehow trapped inside Rudy Gay’s body. Batum was nice, oui, but there was something, well… Je ne sais qoui.
Talented 6-8 ballers who are 19 years old, can play multiple positions, possess an avian wingspan and can sour out of the gym usually send NBA scouts scrambling for their Blackberries so they can alert GMs to the next big thing. And coming up, Batum was no exception. In ’06, Batum led the French U-18 team to a Euro title while pulling the MVP award.
Batum validated the hype during the ’07 Nike Hoops Summit, playing against guys with names like Mayo and Beasley, finishing with 23 points and a dunk on Patrick Patterson.
He played his way into the upper reaches of the ’07 Draft Lottery… until he decided not to enter the Draft.
Batum returned to France for another year of seasoning, and he’s had a nice year for LeMans, avergaing 11.6 points and 5 boards per game. But now that all eyes are on him, Batumm has lost a little bit of the buzz of the unknown that he once had. He’ll still be a first round pick this summer but likely not as high as he would have been last year.
Perhaps he cost himself Draft postion, but will sticking around France for this past season make Nicolas Batum a better play in the long run? Je ne sais quoi
Source and links: Slam Magazine, issue 118 (June 2008), (176)