Our exit interview series on the 2023 Clippers continues with beloved veteran role player Nic Batum.

Basic Information

Height: 6’8

Weight: 230 pounds

Position: Power Forward/Small Forward

Age: 34

Years in NBA: 15

Key Regular Season Stats: 6.1 points, 1.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 0.6 turnovers in 21.9 minutes per game across 78 games played (19 starts) on 42.0/39.1/70.8 (4.1 3PA and 0.6 FTA attempts) shooting splits (59.4 True Shooting)

Postseason Stats: 4.4 points, 1.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 0.4 turnovers in 18.4 minutes per game across five games played (three starts) on 42.1/35.3 shooting splits (3.4 3PA, 0 FTA) shooting splits (57.9 True Shooting)

Expectations

Nic Batum had some of the most straightforward expectations on the 2023 Clippers. He was projected to come off the bench as the reserve power forward behind Marcus Morris, play some center in small-ball lineups, and maybe even a little small forward in bigger lineups. Clippers fans knew not to expect a ton of production, but to see high-level three-point shooting on decent volume, excellent defense across multiple positions, and an ability to do all the little connective things on offense.

Reality

Nic Batum was one of the rocks for the Clippers this season, just as he had been the previous two seasons. He appeared in 78 games, an impressive number for a 34-year-old with more than 31,500 minutes played across his career. His minutes ticked down again, all the way to the low 20s, as the Clippers clearly did not want to tax him too much. Still, he was available every game, just about, and his defense remained strong all season even as the Clippers’ overall defense crumbled around him. Batum’s shot attempts went down as well, as he averaged an incredible 0.8 two-point field goals per game, taking just 64 all season. In short, he’s essentially just a three-point shooter on offense now, but is a good one and more consistent than Marcus Morris or Robert Covington.

Really, the main issue with Nico in 2023 is that the Clippers just didn’t feel like they could play him as much, which led to a ton of Marcus Morris (why Robert Covington couldn’t soak up some minutes remains a mystery). He will be 35 next year, and while he’s still quite good on defense, he’s definitely slipped a bit from where he was a couple years ago. In the playoffs, the defense remained there, but he was 1-9 from the field across the first four games (and played just 6 minutes in Game 4) before exploding for 19 points in Game 5. In short, Nic Batum was still a good rotation player, but he probably can’t be a high-minutes starter consistently anymore. Considering his age and miles, that’s totally understandable.

Future with Clippers

Nic Batum has one year worth $11.7M left on his deal, which is a prime trade contract – big enough to be moved for other pieces or as a smaller part of a mega-deal. Despite his slippage, Nic Batum would still be valued as a “3 and D” forward for a win-now team, though I imagine he’d have more value to the Clippers than other teams.

Still, Nico has said many times that he loves Los Angeles and playing for the Clippers. He has the rare combination of fan adoration, head coaching trust, and overall team respect. It’s unclear how many years Nic Batum has left, but one would think he and the organization would prefer he spends the rest of his career in a Clippers jersey. I think it’s certainly possible he gets moved, but of the three veteran forwards Nic Batum is likeliest to be on the Clippers come September 2023.

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