Re-Signing Nicolas Batum Keeps the Hornets in the Playoff Mix
Nicolas Batum isn't a household name by any stretch, but the French shooting guard/small forward is an NBA difference-maker.
That's why the Charlotte Hornets' decision to re-sign him to a five-year, $120 million deal makes sense. After all, Charlotte finished seventh in the NBA in our power rankings this past season before losing to the Miami Heat in seven games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Granted, Batum's personal nERD score, which indicates how many wins above or below .500 a player would make a league-average team over a full season, of -0.5 suggests he was a below-average asset, but his numbers in a lot of areas shine through over the long run.
Since the 2012-13 season, Batum has played 10,591 NBA minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Hornets. He has amassed a nERD of 3.3 in that span, which ranks just 63rd among 89 players with at least 8,000 minutes in that span.
However, in that stretch, he has maintained some interesting rate stats across the board. For starters, he's secured an assist rate of 22%, a total rebounding rate of 9.7%, a block rate of 1.6%, and a steal rate of 1.5%. Only two other players have maintained such a balanced contribution on the court in this stretch: Joakim Noah and Kevin Durant.
If he were to have maintained those rates -- and we're talking four seasons and 10,000 minutes, so it's by no means a tiny sample -- he'd have production in those categories akin to just three other players in history since rate stats became reliable in the 1973-74 season: Tracy McGrady, Scottie Pippen, and LeBron James.
Of course, Batum's four-year numbers are used as the baseline here, and the other guys are above him, but the point remains that his overall impact is exceedingly rare in the NBA.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Batum's impact for the Hornets on the floor wasn't extravagant this year, but it was noticeable.
|Batum Splits||Mins||eFG%||TRB%||AST%||STL%||BLK%||TOV%||ORtg||Opp eFG%||DRtg|
Charlotte's effective field goal percentage increased with Batum on the floor than without him -- though he did play a starter's role with better teammates -- and their offensive rating was 4.6 points better, meaning they scored 4.6 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor than without him.
Defensively, his impact was basically irrelevant, as the Hornets allowed nearly an identical effective field goal percentage and defensive rating with him and without him on the floor.
Calculating the Contract
Batum's five-year, $120 million deal yields an average annual value (AAV) of $24 million per season, and the fifth year is a player option, something that the 27-year-old couldn't be offered by another team.
Considering that the NBA's salary cap is jumping roughly 30% from $70 million to about $94 million, Batum's current AAV is equivalent to about $17.9 million in the current system. That's about the same AAV as Kevin Durant's deal from 2011, which -- as we all know -- has expired.
Right now, Batum is -- and there is really no easy comparison here -- jumping from about an $11.5 million deal from 2012 to the $17.9 million equivalent. Given his ability as an all-around contributor and as a wing defender as well as the fact that the Hornets are competing in the East and won't be bringing back either Jeremy Lin or Al Jefferson, the deal makes sense for both parties.
It won't swing the balance of the NBA Championship by any means, but Batum is a piece that the Hornets need to push for a deeper run in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in 2016-17.