Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most.
Why He’s Great: Nicolas Batum is the perfect role player. If you were building someone to be the fourth best player on a championship team, you’d come up with Batum.
He’s an excellent passer in both transition and the half-court, finishing in the top-five at his position for assists per game in each of the last four seasons. What’s noteworthy about his passing is how quick it is. He certainly can make the devastating cross-court passes LeBron makes, but he can also slip the ball to the corner from a close enough spot on the perimeter faster than just about any other forward in basketball, creating open three’s where one otherwise could not exist.
He’s not a stopper, but he can guard every position except center better than average. Opposing shooters shot 1.5% worse from the field against Batum despite him playing on a team without many noteworthy defenders. In a modern game obsessed with switching, Batum can do it as well as almost anyone.
And he’s at least a useful shooter. He made 36.6% of his three’s on catch-and-shoot’s last season and just under 35% overall. He’s not someone who should be pulling up, but stick him in the corner on a pick-and-roll and he’s dangerous whether he gets the ball or not.
He can be a functional point guard off of the bench, a wing in traditional lineups and even a power forward against the right matchups. There is nothing on the basketball court Batum objectively cannot do, and that’s the sort of player every team needs.
Why He’s Below No. 46 (Reggie Jackson): He may be the perfect role player, but at the end of the day Nic Batum is still a role player. He’s subject to the same limitations, he struggles just as much on the road (he shot over 5% better at home than on the road from the field last season), he’s just not a star.
These are the top 50 players in the league, to make it any higher on this list there are certain things you have to be able to do that Nic Batum just can’t. Reggie Jackson is, at least to some extent, a star player. He’s a low-end star, but he’s a star. Nic Batum may be a high-end role player, but in almost any case a role player is going to be less valuable than a star.
If Nic Batum were a star, he’d have fewer brain farts on the court. He makes at least one play per game than makes you wonder how the hell he’s even in the NBA. He goes through dangerously long stretches where he looks like he doesn’t even know how to play basketball. He racked up the second most turnovers among all shooting guards last season. That shouldn’t be possible. He doesn’t touch the ball nearly as much as Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis and others, yet he often gets so risky with the ball that he coughs it away unnecessarily. That’s a major flaw, and one that keeps him this low on the list.