[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="What is Batum's value if he isn't stuck in Portland's corner?"][/caption]
The "Nicolas Batum Debacle" continues today. David Kahn has yet again somehow turned what seemed like a pretty straight forward situation into a head scratcher. The Wolves owner, Glen Taylor, said yesterday that an offer sheet for restricted free agent Nicolas Batum would be submitted by end of the business day on Thursday if no sign and trade had been completed. The offer itself is rumored to be a 4 year contract worth $46.5 million with bonuses that could push it toward the $50 million mark. The offer sheet, as far as we all know, is yet to be submitted and a sign and trade is yet to happen as well, but is still on the table until the offer sheet is submitted which would kill all sign and trade possibilities.
We are still left with many questions. Were the Wolves just trying to threaten the offer sheet to force a trade? Are the Blazers bluffing in their bold statements to match any offer for Batum in order to drive the cost of the sign and trade up for the Wolves? If David Kahn were in a room with Stephen Hawking, would he still think he is the smartest guy in the room?
Most important question of all - Is the 23 year old SF from France, Nicolas Batum, worth $46.5 million over 4 years? Je dis que oui. ("I say yes." I know french...thanks Google!)
How do you measure value in the NBA? You measure the player in comparison with players in comparable portions of their career at similar positions, of course. Or at least that is how I am going to do it today because it only seems to make sense.
It's simple - If "this guy" who produces "this" at this age is worth "this" than "this player" who is at this age and produces close to the same as "that" is also worth "this".
So, let's do a blind statistical look at 3 players. 2 of them are involved in talks with the Wolves and one isn't but is in near the same situation. (Thanks as always to Basketball-Reference.com for the stats!)
PER - 17.6
PER - 17.3
PER - 21.1
Looking at this, you'd easily say that all three of these players should be pretty close in salary, right?
Here is what Player 1 is paid and the other two are rumored to soon be paid per year in millions -
Player 1 - $14.9
Player 2 - $11.6 (rumored yearly average of base contract)
Player 3 - $ 16.0 (rumored if on open market)
Understanding that for both Player 2 and 3 these are just rumored deals that they are likely to get, you'd have to say that Player 1 is likely overpaid for his production, Player 2 is likely pretty close to the right compensation and that Player 3 is more worth what Player 1 is currently being paid.
I am sure you've already figured out who each player is in this: Player 1 - Andre Iguodala, Player 2 - Nicolas Batum and Player 3 - James Harden.
The point I am trying to make is, Nicolas Batum's contract offer, yet to be submitted, from the Wolves has the fan forums in frenzy for being a stretch. But when it is compared to the contract that Andre Iguodala is currently playing under and the contract almost everyone expects James Harden to sign when he becomes a free agent or resigns with OKC, it is a bit easier to swallow.
Iguodala is 28, likely has peaked in his career, or is very close to reaching it. Nicolas Batum is 23, and has a lot of potential. James Harden is 22 and still coming off the bench for OKC and also has a lot of potential left to fulfill.
The point is made with Iggy, let's look at the other two. Do realize I am arguing for Batum, so I'll be looking at it through glasses (not really anymore thanks to lasik) shaded to lean Batum's way.
Both Batum and Harden could argue that they'd be better statistically if they played in different systems. Many have complained that the Blazers under Nate McMillan have had a very stagnant and slow offense that can restrict a playmaker's ability. Batum himself has said he wants to come to Minnesota so he doesn't have to "stand in the corner" in Portland any longer. On the other hand, you could say that there is a reason they had Batum in the corner, and that his own assessment of his ability is a bit bloated.
As for Harden, OKC has used him as a 6th man for his entire career. Though he has been great at that role, one could argue that he would have better statistical seasons if he were a full-time starter. On the other hand, you could argue that Harden gets the benefit of often playing against the other teams second team players as well as being OKC's second teams number one option.
Batum doesn't get the same luxury as Harden of playing against second units and being the first option when his is on the floor. The majority of Batum's minutes come with Lamarcus Aldridge also on the court. As for Harden, according the 82games.com Harden played the second most amount of his minutes with a 5 man unit that did NOT include Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant. Looking again at the 5 man unit stats, you can see that Nicolas Batum's minutes played with 5 man units where he was the #1 offensive option (aka minus-Aldridge) was almost half the amount of time that James Harden played as the #1 option (aka minus-Westbrook/Durant).
When/if Batum's 4 year $46.5 million dollar contract offer is submitted from Minnesota, it shouldn't be approached as a huge stretch, if any at all. It very well could turn out to be a steal by the time the contract expires, in the same way that Kevin Love's contract now seems like a bargain in comparison to the inferior (outside of dunking) max contract signee Blake Griffin.
Batum would be the 9th highest paid SF in the league, right behind Danny Granger ($13.3 mil/per) and right ahead of Hedo Turkoglu and Corey Maggette ($11.4 and $10.9 mil/per respectively).
Batum's deal makes sense if it is submitted. As a Wolves fan you just have to hope that Portland is bluffing and that they don't read STOB (I doubt they do).