Apr 6, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum (88) brings the ball up the court during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Trailblazers defeated the Mavericks 99-97 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Depending on what the Washington Wizards do with Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis, they could have around $12 million of salary-cap space to spend this summer. It remains to be seen if the Wizards actually use it or bank it towards the 2013 class, but in any event, there are a number of free agents that could help the team's push into playoff contention. We'll take a look at several of those options in this running series. Next up: Nicolas Batum.
Type: Restricted free agent.
Last year: Had a pretty strong season considering all of Portland's turmoil, but still fell just short of breaking out. He continues to up his usage and become a better all-around offensive player, and he also saw his three-point percentage rise back up to normal levels after a shaky 2010-11. All in all, he definitely took a nice step forward.
Why he's fit in well: He's a perfect fit offensively because he can space the floor, shoot off the catch, come off down screens and cut to the rim when his defender turns his head. According to MySynergySports.com, he scored 1.55 points per possession on plays deemed as "cuts," good for fourth in the league. This is due to his tremendous court sense and instincts.
Why he might not: Despite his reputation, I don't think Batum is a very good defender. He's kind of like Chris Singleton in that tougher players can overpower him with their strength. His length makes him a good team defender, but if you're looking for him to be the team's lockdown one-on-one wing defender, he's not the guy you think he is.
Likely price tag: Tough to say, really. Back in January, when he rejected the Blazers' offer for an early extension, there were reports that he felt he was lowballed. However, a few weeks ago, he said he's "99 percent sure" the Blazers would match any contract offer. He also seemed to indicate that the offers would approach $10-11 million per season. So, I guess I'll say that.
Verdict: Batum really fits in well with this team, but it will probably take all of that cap space to pry him away from the Blazers. I could see the argument that this team is ready NOW, cap space be dammed, but I still am a bit skittish about handing him $10 million per season.