As one of the most likable Clippers — both internally in the organization and fanbase, and external to it as well — Nicolas Batum has solidified another strong season as the Los Angeles Clippers’ unofficial glue guy.
He posted averages nearly identical to those of last season: 8.3 points per game on 46.3% shooting from the field and 40% shooting from three, as well as 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.7 blocks a game. He also finished the season being ranked within the top 5 on the Clippers team for shooting efficiency, assist-to-turnover ratio, and defensive win-shares.
Notable moments from this year included various clutch blocks, three-pointers, and a staggering 32 point second-half performance.
But perhaps more appreciated is his consistency. In the absence of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and despite an otherwise wings-loaded Clippers roster, Batum was one of four players to start in 50 or more games this season. He provided both reliable three-point shooting, disciplined defensive awareness, and an overall steadying force in the game. His game may not have been as loud or visually as impressive as some of the quicker dribbles or higher flyers in this league, but Nico was no less effective. His game was simple, yet absolutely needed.
His position moving forward should be similar: simple but necessary. He controls the player option to stay on the Clippers roster and payroll (for just over $3.3 million) through the 2022-2023 season, and all signs indicate his return with the team next season. In his two years with this team, he’s poured in dozens of interviews that indicate his intention to return. As both a strong proponent and noteworthy contributor to Los Angeles’ on-court identity, off-court culture, and locker-room chemistry, Batum seems to looking forward to running it back.
And the Clippers front office seems to be in agreement. While almost every competitive team in today’s NBA would leap at the chance to add the skillset of a player like Batum, the Clippers were the team that invested in him and that are now lucky enough to reap those rewards. It would be hard to find a free agent as cost-effective, in terms of the on-court impact to salary ratio, as Batum. And harder even to find one through the trade market. And especially with as wings-oriented of a playbook as that of Ty Lue’s, Batum’s future on this team seems all but certain.
The one contingency would be in the case of a package involving Batum and one or more of the Clipper’s more trade-friendly contracts (eg. Marcus Morris Sr. or Luke Kennard) for a clear and noticeable upgrade. Barring anything like that from crossing Lawrence Frank’s table, however, it is the opinion of this writer and Clippers fan that the front office ought to preserve a core that is not only genuinely compatible, but also seems to visibly love playing with each other.
In his own words, “it’s gonna be fun next year”.