Nicolas Batum: The NBA’s Greatest Glue Guy

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In November of 2020, the Charlotte Hornets waived forward Nicolas Batum. Batum’s tenure in Charlotte was not one to remember, as injuries played a role in inconsistent playing time. Shortly after On November 29th, 2020, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the French forward would join the Los Angeles Clippers. In a move that was deemed low risk, high reward, the Clippers saw the value that he provides to a contending team. But no one could have predicted how important he would eventually become. Batum had a great 2020-21 season with the team. And so far in the 2021-22 season, he is making a case to be deemed the NBA’s greatest glue guy.

Nicolas Batum: The NBA’s Greatest Glue Guy

Every contending team needs a great supporting cast to complement its star players. The Chicago Bulls had Dennis Rodman. The Los Angeles Lakers had Derek Fisher. The Golden State Warriors had Andre Iguodala. The Los Angeles Clippers have Batum.

A fan favorite amongst Clipper Nation, Batum dazzles with his display of defensive versatility, shooting, and unselfishness. Whether it’s his cuts to the basket to keep the defense honest or his back taps to keep offensive possessions alive, Batum has been doing every little thing to help the Clippers win.

Defensive Versatility

The Clippers utilize Batum to every extent possible. In a Tuesday night win against the Portland Trail Blazers, Ty Lue elected Batum to check star point guard Damian Lillard. His length caused havoc for the 6″2′ guard. As a result of his bothersome defense and the Clippers’ blitzes, Lillard had to give up the ball. In turn, this forced Portland’s ‘other guys’ to make plays.

But this was not the only time the Clippers used Batum’s 7″0′ wingspan.

Two days later, he found himself matched up with center Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat. Adebayo’s mobility proved to be a tough task for the Clippers to defend. Consequently, Lue decided to stick Batum on him. The move allowed a quicker-footed defender to keep up with the nimble Adebayo. Additionally, Batum’s long arms provided decent length to bother Miami’s young center.

Batum was not only a solid defender on Adebayo. But he impacted the defensive end against the Heat collectively. Stuffing the stat sheet with two steals and three blocks, Batum’s length, and defensive IQ were on full display. Specifically, Batum blocked PJ Tucker, who drove down the lane and put up a floater. Unfortunately for Tucker, his attempt was met at the summit. The rejection then forced a fast break and a score for the Clippers.

Finally, Batum’s defense sealed the game. Miami drew up a play to feed Adebayo out of the inbounds. Batum shut this play down as his long left arm knocked the ball away, causing a turnover. Thus, clinching the victory for the Clippers.

Shooting

Batum’s work in the summer and throughout his career paid dividends in the early season. Throughout his stint with the Clippers, he’s proved to be much more than a catch-and-shoot option. In pregame, Batum works on releasing off the catch without dipping the basketball. A difficult task that only shooting greats Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are able to execute efficiently. Of course, he can shoot while dipping the ball, but Batum’s intelligence is on full display with this work ethic. Because he recognizes that defenders will close out hard, he understands that he must get his shot up in time. His wingspan along with his new fast-release allows him to put up shots at a quicker clip.

In addition to his quick release, Batum continues to improve his shooting on the move. His ability to shoot off a curl, flare, and other movements allows him to get his shot up and in rhythm. Therefore removing the need to be completely set and allowing the defense to close the gap. He even displayed an impressive off-the-dribble move to bail out the Clippers against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Proving he has more to his arsenal than assumed.

During the Clippers’ six-game win streak, Batum is averaging 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. All while shooting 62.7% from the field and a staggering 58.5% from three. He has been integral to the team’s success as they appear to have turned around their season.

Unselfishness

Head coach Ty Lue’s motto for the Clippers offense is simple: “Drive, kick, swing”. The mentality encourages an attacking attitude to collapse the defense. This leads to opportunities to kick to open players then force the defense to shift with ball movement.

When watching Batum play, he can be seen playing within the offense, in contrast to finding his own shot. There are numerous instances in which Batum recognizes a play is stagnating. Therefore, he chooses to reverse the play to another ball-handler for a dribble hand-off to get the offense going. He will also look to attack downhill if he realizes that the team needs to get paint touches. In turn, those paint touches result in open looks for shooters.

His unselfishness is not only exclusive to offense. However, he will sacrifice his body if needed. Batum’s IQ and ability to be in the correct spot enable him to draw charges and get the ball back for his team. His continued effort to be team-first is a prime example of how glue guys are so integral to winning.

Nicolas Batum is the NBA’s Greatest Glue Guy, no question

Batum is a player that everyone wants to play with. His contributions affect winning and encourage teammates to play similarly. A player of his style is a great fit around stars like MVP candidate Paul George.

“He’s so valuable. He’s definitely one guy I enjoy playing with,” George said postgame, praising his teammate.

Batum’s play is a reason why the Clippers were able to stay somewhat afloat early in the season. And it is a major reason for their current six-game winning streak. While this can be attributed to the short offseason he had going from the Western Conference Finals to a gold medal game in the Olympics. He appears to have stayed in rhythm from those experiences.

The Clippers would be in a tough spot without Batum, who is proving to be arguably their third most important player behind George and Reggie Jackson. The team is currently rolling and in rhythm and has stepped up as a whole on both ends of the floor. And there is no doubt that Batum is a crucial component to their success.

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