I write this player preview in an airport departure lounge just hours after the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket tournament. For those reading this who don’t engage with any basketball outside of the NBA, Spain — led by one of the league’s biggest cult heroes, Juancho Hernangomez — beat France in the final. It’s the second consecutive second-place finish France have achieved in their past two major international tournaments, after winning silver at the Olympics the previous summer.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ Nicolas Batum was a star at those games in Tokyo last year, helping his home country reach the finals with perhaps the moment of the entire competition — a game-winning block just before the buzzer against Luka Doncic’s Slovenia with just a point between the two teams.
Prochain poster dans la chambre de mon fils ! pic.twitter.com/qMJqWSML6Y— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) August 5, 2021
That the Frenchman chose to sit out of this summer’s EuroBasket tournament tells you everything you need to know about how much he’s put into the last few years, but it also suggests that he’s saving up for a big season.
What is the best case scenario for their season?
If you asked him personally, I’d imagine Batum would tell you that the past few years have gone about as well as they could have. His move to Los Angeles galvanized his NBA career, while his achievements with his country would have felt like the icing on the cake. Yet, you’d imagine he’ll want more of the same in whatever time he has left on the court.
In an ideal world, the decision to skip international duty would pay off handsomely for both player and team. If it does, expect more big baskets, clutch defensive plays and all-around fundamentals from our French knight.
Paul George previously called him “one of the best glue guys in the league,” and if he can make it stick for another year then the Clippers may find themselves looking down on the rest.
What is the worst-case outcome?
Well, the concern the most fearful fans may have about Batum sitting out of summer competition with France is that he’s starting to feel the effects of an eventful few seasons. If that is the case, the 23 inactive games from the previous campaign could grow further this time around. With fiercer-than-ever competition waiting in the wings, any time spent on the sidelines could spell danger for the Frenchman’s position in the pecking order.
What do you think is the most-likely role for them?
The 33-year-old started 54 of the 59 games he was active for last season and he’ll be eyeing up a similar percentage this season, though the aforementioned competition does continue to grow.
With Kawhi Leonard healthy again, Robert Covington and Amir Coffey both getting paid, and Marcus Morris still full of fire, Batum will know that his place is far from guaranteed.
However, given his all-around game, I’d expect Batum to keep that starting spot alongside the Clippers’ star duo. With the backup center spot also up for grabs, the former Portland Trail Blazer will be expected to slide across to the five when the team goes small.
Better get those Draymond Green and Boris Diaw tapes back out, Nico.