Watching Orlando Magic games, its been obvious for the past few years two of the most crucial elements which have been lacking from the Magic roster has been athleticism and defense. Through trades, the Magic have constantly tried to acquire that athleticism to put them over the top which trades involving Vince Carter and Jason Richardson.
Only the latter--defensive stop-making ability, I've been noticing for past year and half has been a glaring weakness of this tea-- other than Dwight Howard of course. Teams like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City it seems effortlessly are able to get into the point and easy buckets against us. With several analysts throwing names like Derron Williams as the only players that will be able to save the franchise-- I pose a more realistic prospect the Magic can who can be just as effeciant in other areas for the Magic--namely strong defense and improving off the dribble ability-- SF/SG Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers. Batum was recently in the past month denied a contact extension by the Portland Trail Blazers and be an restricted free-agent in the off season.
Nicolas Batum declared the NBA in 2008. Before that time, the French player's name floated draft boards for a few years. Sometimes, I remember looking at NBA Mock Draft sites being high as a lottery pick, however, during the 2007-2008 season, Batum's name began to drop off the radar--probably due to the stacked 2008 draft class. He fell to the mid twenties and was grabbed by the Trailer Blazers with the 25 pick of the 1st round. I was wishing the Magic would possibly target him, but hey we got Courtney Lee which helped us reached the finals that same year and then get Ryan Anderson--so I can't complain right?
Scouts always unquestioned Batum's amazing athleticism to along with tall 6-8 frame and 7'1 wingspan he could either play SG or SF . Such athleticism, is now turning him into an elite defender. But at the same time, scouts were a little skeptical of his raw and inconsistent potential combined with passive sidekick demeanor. And for his first three years, those weaknesses were justified-- as we was seen a great role player at best who lacked that aggressive fire to really take his team over the top. When Brandon Roy was injured, he couldn't take the starting spot from Wesley Matthews.
However this year. especially after LeMarcus Alrdrige got hurt, Nicolas Batum is starting to really into a groove and is starting to find his swagger. Joe Freeman described Batum's current explosion best:
Over the last four games, since Batum replaced Wesley Matthews in the starting lineup, he's been as aggressive, dominant and dynamic as he's been at any point in his four-season career. It's not just that Batum is averaging 22.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the streak. Or that he's shooting 52.9 percent from the field, including 43.5 percent from three-point range.
It's how he's doing it all. He's driving through the heart of defenses for dunks and layups. He's crashing the rim for gritty offensive rebounds. He's taking more chances and showing more creativity on offense, revealing no hesitance to dribble and create his own shot or an open look for teammate. During this breakout four-game run, Batum has attempted 68 field goals and scored 91 points, which includes a career-high 24-shot, 33-point scoring night against the Washington Wizards. It's the most field-goal attempts and most points Batum has recorded in any four-game stretch of his career.
This is why I believe Batum would fit extremely well with the Magic.
Three point shooting
Although Batum is starting to take people off the dribble and create shots for himself, Batum still frequently shoots threes when he is in the game. Of his 9.9 shot attempts a game, a whopping 42.4% are from the three point line, and he is making 41.6 of them. In an offensive where a team heavily relies on three point shooting, Batum would transition nicely to playing for the Magic
Defensive and athletic Ability
Like I mentioned before the jump, if there are two pressing needs the team is lacking-- it is in their athletic ability and defensive skills. As we saw in the Miami Heat game yesterday, the Magic really don't have any one other than Howard who can shut down opponents and keep them from getting to the rim. Batum possess the athletic ability and length to hassle opposing players star playmakers. Playing for the Blazers, he been asked to guard anyone from Point Guards to fowards. Coming in, we will finally have somebody who can somewhat contain or at least challenge the likes of LeBron and Durant on defense. In turn, that would relieve pressure for Dwight Howard of not having to rotate in and clean up everyone's messes.
In terms of athletic ability to create his own shot, Batum is by no means a player who can consistently create off the dribble YET, however, he is starting to get a lot more comfortable slashing to the hole. If he can continue to work on his game, I don't see why Batum won't be able to add the label to his game as a "Slasher".
Young age and room to grow
One plus you cannot deny if the Magic were to get Nicolas Batum, is theirroster would get a whole lot younger in the process. Batum is only 23 years old and still has massive rooms and time to fill in the wholes of his game. And if worse came to worse and Dwight does end up leaving, the Magic have a solid piece for rebuilding for the future.
So now the question becomes- is it realistically possible for Magic to get Batum-- either through trading for him this season or signing him in free agency? Well, personally I have no idea. I don't know how NBA salaries and contracts work. But from a noobie's perspective , obviously it would have been a lot easier to acquire Batum's services right after he was denied the contract extension and was still regulated to coming off the bench for the Blazers.
First thing is first though: the Magic would have to get rid of Richardson's awful contract beginning in March. The only possible team I see who seems to desperate to get a shooting guard are the Clippers. Does a trade such as Richardson for Randy Foye and another throw-on seem reasonable?
If the Magic were to somehow be able to rid themselves of Richardson's contract, then the only reasonable trade that would go in our favor to get Batum would be having to give up JJ Redick and a first round draft pick (Do we actually have one this year?). This way the Blazers at least get a very good role player and draft pick instead of risking to lose him in free agency.
Ultimately, I think getting Batum will be a sold move in going the right direction. However, with the promising abilities Batum can bring the Magic, I am kind of afraid of his passive demenour will result in him Turkaglouing when defenses get tough of him--i.e. settling for ridiculously long shots instead of attacking the rim. Also if the Magic would wait to free agency, I don't see how they would able to keep Ryan Anderson as well in the process.
Any thoughts, suggestions of how to acquire Batum? Is it even realistically possible? Would Batum actually eliminate several of deficiencies the Magic currently have? Discuss.