Nicolas Batum Sent to Charlotte in Trade
The Charlotte Hornets are busy this off-season as they try to improve enough to get back to the NBA playoffs. Part of their strategy was to improve on the wing, where they lacked consistent offense. They may have found that by trading for Portland Trail Blazers swing man, Nicolas Batum.
Charlotte completed a trade on Wednesday that brings in Batum to play on the wing, while the Blazers get big man Noah Vonlen and shooting guard Gerald Henderson.
With Batum, the Hornets potentially lose very little offensively, as Henderson provided an offensive spark but wasn’t necessarily a superior shooter in comparison to Batum. Batum had a down 2014 season when it came to shooting percentages, but the France product has never shot lower than 34% from beyond the arc in his career and at the very worst offers a solid outside jumper.
The best part? A defensive-minded Hornets squad doesn’t lose much offense (if any), yet could get a major boost on the defensive end. Batum is a top shelf defender on paper, as he has the length and athleticism to matchup with just about any opposing wing. Henderson, the guy he should be replacing at shooting guard, was a solid offensive player, but was not known as a strong defender.
In Charlotte, Batum will start along side Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a defensive stalwart who has a still evolving offensive game. With Batum in place, the Hornets get a little bit better on defense and if the Batum of 2013 can show up (13 points per game on 46% shooting), they could also even get a boost on the offensive end.
Batum is a big get for the Hornets, but the Blazers also got precisely what they needed in this deal. The potential loss of shooting guard Wesley Matthews created a need at shooting guard, while Arron Afflalo leaving in free agency (he opted out of his contract this week) made the need even greater. Henderson should be able to slide into the starting lineup at best, or he could provide a spark off the bench at the worst.
Vonleh will enter his second NBA season as a project, after getting very little chances to prove himself as a rookie during the 2014-15 NBA season. While Vonleh has to work to establish any kind of a role with his new team, he certainly has the size and talent to develop into a mighty fine steal. Portland fans could get a look at him even more if star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge opts to leave town in free agency this summer.
Fans often wonder what kind of impact trades can have or if a big deal can vault a team into the playoffs. Portland is already a playoff team provided Aldridge returns, but this deal probably doesn’t make or break them, either way. This trade could very well end up being a difference-maker for the Hornets, however, as they potentially significantly improved with a two-way player who can defend and hit the outside shot.
With Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson leading the way, the addition of Batum could push the Hornets over the top in a fairly weak Eastern Conference. That shouldn’t mean the Hornets ascend to near the top of the conference, but they could start thinking about the playoffs again next season if Batum ends up being the good fit he seems to be on paper.
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