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2019-20 Player Preview: Nicolas Batum

A lot of us did not enjoy watching Nic Batum play basketball last year. Whenever watching a Hornets game, you’d see a lot of trash talking about his game and blaming him for our struggles. Some of that was true and some of it was a little too far. Let’s dive into his game last year and what we can expect from him this year.

Batum’s shooting numbers weren’t really bad this past year. He was at an above average TS% at 58.1 and shot 39% from three on about four attempts a game. Theoretically, he’s your classic dribble/pass/shoot wing. 74% of his shots last year came at the rim or from three. What’s the problem you say? Well, Batum is our highest paid player. He was brought in to be the guy to help Kemba. You’d think your highest paid player at a TS% of 58.1 and shooting 39% from three would be terrific. However, Batum had a usage rate of 12.9% according to NBA.com. To put that in perspective, out of players that played at least 15 minutes last year for the Hornets (11), Batum was DEAD LAST. That’s atrocious from your highest paid player.

I’d honestly trade some efficiency for Batum to actually do more stuff on the basketball court. Like I said before, he’s your prototypical dribble/pass/shoot guy. He can defintely handle more. His usage rate last year was the lowest of his whole career. Not even as a rookie did he finish plays less. It’s truly dumbfounding. Batum had pretty good indicators. He was in the 64th percentile as a p&r ball handler. 77th percentile as a spot-up guy. In the 63rd percentile off dribble hand-offs. The guy can play. He just doesn’t do these things that often. Those play types consisted of about 6 possessions per game. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not as if Batum is 35 or something. Last year was his age 30 season. He should still have some good years left.

If his salary number wasn’t so high, Batum would honestly be an intriguing trade candidate. He hits 3s at a good rate. He can pass well for a wing. He also was one of our better defenders this past season. He’s well-suited for a low usage role on a contender like Houston or Milwaukee. Unfortunately, he’s on the Charlotte Hornets. We needed a lot more from him and he just didn’t deliver.

I’m not sure to expect much from Batum this season. In the Hornets first preseason game of the year, he had a 9.8% usage rate. I expect it to be more than that and it was a preseason game but don’t expect that usage to skyrocket. At this point it’s fine. We want the younger guys to do more anyways. But it has defintely been a rough couple years with Batum. I’m firmly against trading away his contract with an asset though. We’re in the position now where we need to acquire as many assets as we can instead of giving them away. We’ll be bad the next couple years so I’m content with just riding it out. Get used to being upset with Batum again this year Hornet fans. It’ll be a lot more of the same.

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