The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.
To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.
Previously, we took a look at Al Horford. Now we continue our series with a look at the 3rd ranked player on our list: Nicolas Batum.
How Batum can help the Wizards
Coming off a disappointing 2015-2016 season, the Wizards are in desperate need of an upgrade. Thanks to a mix of injuries and poor defensive play on the perimeter, the Wizards lost their defensive identity last season. Even though the addition of Markieff Morris helped the Wizards get back on track, they could still use some more help. Enter Nicolas Batum.
He was a big part of the Hornets' defensive transformation last season. Although Charlotte only moved up from 9th to 8th in defensive efficiency, it was a massive accomplishment for them to build on last year's success. Remember, the team completely retooled their roster to play a pace-and-space style and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist only played seven games this season. If it wasn't for Batum's versatility on the defensive end, there's no way the Hornets would have been able to make the transition and reach the playoffs last season.
But his value doesn't stop on the defensive end. Offensively, he would give the Wizards a player on the wing who can contribute in a lot of different ways. His three-point shooting (34.8 percent last season) might not blow you away, but keep in mind he battled through several foot and ankle injuries this summer. When he was at his healthiest in November and March, he shot 41.4 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.
An underrated part of Batum's game that caught my eye was his ball handling ability. The Wizards rely so much on John Wall to run the offense, but with Batum, there would be another playmaker/ballhandler at the small forward position. He led the Hornets with 6.1 assists per game last season and assisted on 29.6 percent of the Hornets' field goals when he was on the floor. He can also be very flashy, like this:
How Batum could hurt the Wizards
While Batum is a capable defensive player in today's NBA (he received two All-Defense votes last season) he isn't always as dependable on that end as one would hope. Our sister site At The Hive concluded their breakdown of Batum's defense last season by saying this:
I feel it's necessary to remind you that I'm not suggesting Batum is lackadaisical on defense every game. It came and went as the regular season progressed. The eight-year veteran had plenty of nights during where he was more engaged. That makes you wonder how much of this is a sign of the grind of an NBA regular season. Playing for 70 games at the usage rate (21.4 percent, a career-high) that Batum had should be difficult. It's understandable that a guy simply has to conserve some energy on defense. There's a reason why coach Steve Clifford had the other wing (firstly P.J. Hairston, then Courtney Lee) taking the most dangerous opposing player on defense.
With two-way players like Batum, it's always important to remember there's give-and-take. You can't have the best of both worlds at all times. He can be a good defender when you need him to be, he can be a useful offensive piece when you need him to be, and he can do both at times. But you can't expect him to be amazing at both ends all the time.
If Washington puts him in a position where they ask him to do too much, it could lead to more of the poor tendencies that sank the team last year. Lazy defense, lack of effort and lack of awareness is not a recipe for a successful bounce back year in DC. Even if his defensive lapses weren’t an everyday thing, it could be contagious if they don't put him and other on the roster in spots to succeed.
I would be all in favor for the Wizards to pursue Batum. His playmaking ability on the offensive end alone could work wonders for the Wizards and their current center, Marcin Gortat. His shooting from three-point range could very well take a leap with the John Wall effect. His proven versatility on both ends could be a major upgrade for the Wizards on the perimeter is used correctly. Wing players with Batum's rare combination of talent don't come along often, so Washington should do what it can to get his attention this summer.