The Future And Nicolas Batum

Sunday’s column took a look at this question: Aside from Brandon Roy, which current Blazer has the best career ahead of him? I think it’s a fascinating question. Will Greg Oden ever be healthy? Will LaMarcus Aldridge ever make the leap to All-Star status? The questions all lead to this one: Who is the best bet to be the wingman on a championship-caliber team?

Examining the question could exhaust a ream of paper. I didn’t have that much room to explain why I think Nicolas Batum will have the best career, other than Roy, yet I hope I touched upon some justifiable reasoning.

But here’s what I found to be the most interesting part of the exercise: I presented the question to five prominent media members in the region. If you follow the Blazers, you know all their names. Here are the answers I received: Batum; Batum; Batum; Aldridge, followed by Batum; and Jerryd Bayless.

Jerryd Bayless? OK, that seems quirky. But it was interesting that people are so high on Batum since he returned from an injury. recently compiled a collection of the rave reviews.

Selecting Batum to have a better career than Aldridge or Oden requires a huge leap of faith. We’re counting on him developing his offensive game; we’re counting on him remaining healthy (missing half a season at the age of 21 is not a good sign); we’re counting on him making up for a lot of inexperience because he grew up in France. But his athletic ability, his defensive skills, and his innate sense of the game are tantalizing.

He might not become Scottie Pippen. On the other hand, Pippen didn’t enter the NBA until his 22-year-old season, and he averaged 21 minutes and 7.9 points as a rookie. (David Halberstam’s book, “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made” contains a lengthy passage about how Jordan desperately wanted the Bulls to draft Joe Wolf rather than Pippen, which might explain Jordan’s performance as a team president).

Pippen’s growth as a player was rapid and exponential, and it would be absurd to expect Batum’s career to take a similar path. But the mere fact that it could happen will make him worth watching.

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