European Prospects

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NBA Draft 2008: Nicolas Batum

June 24th, 2008 · No Comments

Nicolas Batum, who got cleared today by US hospitals that he can play basketball and that his heart “problem” was probably the result of fatigue, is one of the players that has been covered extensively here. Read how he progressed over the last years here.

Let’s start with the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in 2006 and the MVP trophy for the French forward.

MVP of the tournament, Nicolas Batum showed great shooting skills. He is a very good catch and shoot player of the screen coming from under the basket up and getting the ball to hit immediately the shot either straight up or as a fade away. Fantastic athlete and great hustle on defense. He looks unimpressed by the game, always calm and without emotions. Batum had a fantastic scoring percentage for a guard/forward with 60%. He looks like an all-time talent that can easily become a contributor on the next level.

In Douai 2006, I have made the following video of Nicolas Batum together with his team mate Ludo Vaty.

During the U18 European Championships in Summer 2006, Nicolas Batum won another MVP trophy.

Nicolas Batum was voted MVP of the tournament. He is the top talent of his age group and he has absolute NBA talent. He is developing in a very good way, as he is a hard worker. He has all the tools to become a top forward on the NBA level. Some people question his motivation as he is “disappearing” during some games. (a weakness also matched with Boris Diaw in his early NBA games, but you all know how well he developed) On the defensive end, he still has some problems to stop smaller or quicker players, but this is just a question of time before he also has the necessary defense force to stop that type of player. He still can block them as his shot blocking skills are amazing. His shot looks pretty “mechanic”, but he scores with high percentages which is the most important.

In November 2006, Nicolas Batum had his first great Euroleague game in a clash with the Greek top team of Olympiacos.

In this weeks Euroleague matchup between Le Mans and Olympiakos, Nicolas Batum had his best game on a professional level so far. Getting a lot of minutes because of the injury of Bogavac and Alain Koffi, as well as the departure of Mate Skelin, the young French SF played 25 minutes and scored a career-high 15 points. He also made a good defensive job guarding Alex Acker who scored his 21 points mainly when Batum was on the bench. Nicolas started well with a three point shot that gave him some confidence. His hoot still looks pretty strange but he is not afraid to take the three pointer now. He has to add this as a regular weapon as he was mainly using his physical tools to score. But he can hit from everywhere, especially of the pick.
He was using his penetration skills to draw some fouls and he was perfect from the line. All in all, it was a complete game as he added 4rebs, 2asts and 2 steals as well as 1 block shot.
Coach Collet seems to give him more and more playing time as in this weekends LNB game, he played once again 25 minutes. He proves his value and with the return from Bogavac from injury, Batum can not be benched again for the whole game after his performances of the last games.

Of this game, I had also made a detailed video analysis of Batum’s skills.

In April 2007, Nicolas Batum had a great showing during the Nike Hoop Summit.

Nicolas Batum came clearly out of the game as the top prospect, which he was already before the game. He is the most talented and experienced player of the whole World team, and he showed this during the practices and during the game. Without him on the court, the USA team could make a 19-0 run to get a 40-13 lead in the second quarter.
His agent already announced that Batum will be in the Draft 99% sure, even if Batum declared himself directly after the game that “(…) it is an ambition, a dream to play in the NBA for me but I will go into the draft in 2008, not 2007. I am not getting too excited about all the talk.” So we will see what will going on with him when the deadline approaches.

In June 2007, Nicolas had a nice appearance at the Douai Tournament in order to prepare the U19 World Championships of that summer.

The absolute top talent on the French squad is Nicolas Batum. He can dominate the game at will. It looks like he only plays when he needs to, if the opposition is not that hard, he tries to get his teammates more involved. In the game on Saturday against Team USA, a weaker team, Batum was not trying to much offensive plays. He only took 8 shots during that game, and made 6 out of them. However he had 4 assists during that game. Against Australia on Sunday, he took the game in his hand doing everything on the court. But in the last minutes, it was not him anymore that was going to make the points to win the game, and France lost the game.
On the technical side of his game, there is not much to add anymore, his forces are already well known. However, I saw once again slight progression on his shooting mechanics which are still a little unstable. His shot looks sometimes little different, but he makes it so this is not a big issue. But he is working hard to stabilize his shooting mechanism. He has become indeed a quite serious three-point shooter which is a nice addition to his game and opens him a lot more possibilities. He has also the gift of making shots in crucial moments with very high percentages. You could see him score on a three pointer at the 24 second buzzer for example.
Batum will be a big contributor next season with Le Mans in the Euroleague and after that season, he should be ready to attack the next level.

During this U19 World Championships, Nicolas Batum had a so-so performance with a more team orientated playing style, that his coach ask him to go for.

Nicolas Batum once again showed what a big talent he is, but he also showed that he is becoming more and more a player that wants to involve his teammates instead of making the difference on his own. You can consider this as an asset and say, they reached the bronze medal. But you can also say that he has to take the game in his hand in the crucial minutes to be the decisive player. But he has not reached that level so far.

In October 2007, I had another opportunity to take a close look at Nicolas during a French League game.

I had the possibility to watch Nicolas Batum‘s first real top level game this season. The 18 year old forward from Le Mans finished its game with 16pts, 6rebs and 3 assists in a loss of his team in Gravelines this week. But what is behind these figures, that look promising, but his team lost already his second game in three starts.

Batum started the game on the SG position next to Yannick Bokolo who has the role as starting PG. In the first minutes, you could see already the typical Batum movements like catching the ball with one hand and immediately going to dribble out of a turn. His first play in the game was however a nice steal on an inside pass from his opponent. He continued with a great sprint over the court where he showed amazing speed for a player of his size. He is listed now at 2m04 without shoes. He finished the fast break easily with an impressive two handed dunk. Then came something that characterized his plays throughout the game. He received the ball on the free-throw line for an in-out fake and a jump shot. His shot still looks perfectible as his arms does not stretch out completely on his move. And the open shot did not fall. He continued then with a nice assist for a posting teammate and tried a drive on his right hand which he wanted to finish of an acrobatic up and under lay-up in MJ style, but he missed. Came then a first attempt from behind the arc, which he missed too. His last play in the first quarter was a powerful drive from the top where he missed the floating layup, but he came up quickly from the floor to tip the ball in that was playing around the rim.

In the second quarter, there was nothing extraordinary to be noticed by Batum. He was on the bench for some time and when he was on the court, he was very discreet.

He started the the third quarter again, with a missed three point attempt. But you could see already that he is clearly the first offensive option on the team for the outside play. In defense, he blocked a shot and could give a great assist out of his running dribble in the next offense for a team mate’s dunk. He had later then a very elegant baseline drive, on his right hand, which he finished on a nice underhand up and under layup where he showed his fantastic shooting touch around the basket. He continued in the third quarter with another missed jump shot from the free-throw line. On an airball of one of his team mates, he was coming off the weak side to tip it directly into the basket with his two hands. He showed here his good eye for the offensive rebound which is one of his better abilities. His right hand drive helped him then to go through the whole defense to finish on a spectacular one hand dunk. He then took a charge on mid court defending the opposing PG.

In the last quarter then, we could also see the other face of Batum. He disappeared after another score on an offensive rebound. But what you could also see that was that now he was not anymore the first option of his team. The setups ended mostly on difficult shots but other guards or by forcing inside play. Batum was not yet the leader that really asked for the ball from the veteran players. But he was clearly the most talented of them and showed it also during the first and third quarter. Still, his jump shot needs some improvement, especially on the shooting mechanics which are perfectible. But on the drive and on offensive rebounding, his skills are amazing for an 18 year old kid, that only turns 19 in December.

An update on his Euroleague debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Nicolas Batum made his debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday and he showed some good improvement. His all-around game is more developed than ever, but still the same problems persist. Still, his outside shot is far from being regular, but he compensates with improved passing and especially great instincts on the defensive end where he collected 6 steals. His impressive wingspan but also his understanding of the game help him to intercept especially on the passing lines more than being a “out-of-the-hand” steal type of player. His presence on the offensive end is going way above being a simple scorer. He is always looking for the open team mate and he is even going too far in that area becoming a bit of a Boris Diaw type of pass-first, pass-second, shoot third player. This may also be the result of his non-confidence in his shooting from outside. Concerning his shot, you still see that his arm is not completely stretched out in the shooting move.

At the end of December 2007, I made an update on his progression.

When you check his numbers in the Euroleague, you see dramatically improved figures in scoring (9.0ppg from 4.3ppg last season) on nearly the same shooting percentages. So, even if his scoring aggressiveness has improved, he has still not developed a more reliable jump shot, especially from behind the three-point line where he remains average with only 29%. You can however mention his shooting extravaganza in the home game against Maccabi Tel Aviv where he went perfect all throughout the game. If you take that game away, Batum was at a poor 5/24 from behind the arc.

A category where he really improved is the assist section. He showed already during the U19 World Championships during the Summer that he can create for his teammates. He even went too far in that exercise in some occasions. So he has translated this passing skills into his game with Le Mans too. He is averaging correct 2.7apg in 27mpg which I consider as interesting and even improvable.

The main weakness besides his shooting remains the regularity in his game. Batum can come up with monster games or stretches where he dominates, but then he disappears for some moments or comes up with poor games. I saw several Euroleague matches of Le Mans this season and Batum was never the go-to-guy in the Final minutes. He even was not on the court on some of these moments as he was not able to take the ball and make the big plays. This is the part of his game that he needs to improve the most as he has all the qualities to do it. He just needs the confidences to do it.

There we are right now for Nicolas Batum who fell down in the different mocks recently due to his possible health issues. As this has been resolved, he should end up somewhere in the middle to the late first round.

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