The Portland Trail Blazers will be a playoff threat because not many teams have the X-factor Portland has in Nicolas Batum.
When the season closes, their first-round match p will be either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Houston Rockets. Both teams should be prepared for a challenge.
These Trail Blazers are the dark horse for the Western Conference. The team is packed with talent. Loaded, really, from offensive juggernauts Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge to defensive stoppers Batum and Robin Lopez.
This is a team that leads the league in points per game (107.7) and rebounds per game (46.4). They allow a robust 103.2 points per game, but their offensive cap is limitless.
But, with Batum, the Portland faithful should be confident. He has “star” written all over him, but without the flash. A rebounding threat, sharpshooter, eagle eye court vision, shutdown defense and endurance. On Thursday in a 116-103 rout of the Washington Wizards, Batum put all of it on display with a complete line of 12 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in an efficient 34 minutes where he went 5-for-9 from the field and 2-of-5 from the three-point line.
But his contributions don’t stop on offense.
Batum leads the league in distance traveled per game (2.7 miles) and total (180.76). The term, “high motor” cliche applies to Batum. He’s the silent leader, willing to do everything to help the team win.
His stat line is plenty impressive without the on-the-court contributions. He averages 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game while playing primarily at small forward. He averages 1.8 three-pointers and nearly a steal and block per game in his 36 minutes of game time. The utility statistical line rivals superstars like LeBron James on a smaller scale.
The defensive impact is reflected by the mere notion that the Trail Blazers stick Batum on opposing superstars and let him play the entire game on a man-to-man basis. His passing expertise allowed Lillard to run with less pressure on offense and his three-point shooting prowess gives the Trail Blazers three great options beyond the arc.
Regardless of the team matchup in the playoffs, there will be little-to-no game plan against Batum. He’s simply too difficult to deal with.
Photo Credit: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
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