Our staff roundtable grades continue with a look at Nic Batum, the 2022 Clippers’ starting small forward for most of the season.
Lucas Hann: A-
We know that Nico is the kind of guy who is at his best when he’s a connector on an elite team. He’s a ceiling-raiser, not a floor-raiser. And at times this season, I think we felt that, because he could be invisible in moments where the star-less Clippers desperately needed someone to step up into center stage. But on the whole, it was a positive surprise for him to maintain his outstanding 2021 levels of production as he progresses further into his 30s without stars to play around. He has a real case for third most important player on a fully healthy Clippers team, and the fact that his three-point shooting actually improved even more this season (higher volume and better corner %) instead of regressing can only make you optimistic for what he can bring in key moments next season with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard back. ]
Ralston Dacanay: B+
Being that Nicolas Batum is simply at his best when setting up Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the cards were perhaps especially stacked against him to begin with, as compared to the rest of the guys on the team. Additionally, he had multiple stretches of good play interrupted by various momentum-killers (ankle, Achilles soreness and H&S Protocols) that made it difficult to keep any sort of rhythm going pre-2022. Despite that, the main thing to takeaway is that from January onward, Batum consistently brought his do-it-all versatility that has made him a beloved fan favorite with Clipper Nation — even directly against the likes of Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns. The fact that his stats are nearly identical to last season, despite the increased opportunity, is very encouraging for next season’s potential reloaded run.
Cole Huff: A-
It’s honestly surprising that Nico played as well as he did this past season. He was great in 2021 because he benefitted from playing alongside Kawhi and PG, so with both missing mostly all of the season, the late-tenure Charlotte Hornets version of Nic Batum making an appearance would have made sense. That did happen occasionally but fairly infrequently. Injuries and COVID aside, Nico looked very athletic and it was great to see that his shooting remained, and mobility as a point-of-attack defender hasn’t yet escaped him. Both physically and statistically, he was every bit as good in Year 2 as he was during his first season in LA, which leaves me optimistic for next season.
Shapan Debnath: A-
There was a big concern that we’d get regression from Nico coming into the season, and with Paul George being out the majority of it, such slippage felt like even more of a certainty. Well, not only did Nico not regress, he continued to excel. Nico got more shots up, shot the same % from three despite being a more known commodity on the squad, and flashed even more defensive versatility whether it was denying guys like Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic in huge regular season comebacks, or clamping Brandon Ingram during the play-in game. He’s become an indispensable glue guy, fits with virtually any lineup, and elevates all of them. Here’s hoping he retires a Clipper many years down the line.
Robert Flom: A
Nic Batum gets the rare full A grade from me for his 2022 season because realistically, I don’t think he could have played any better. The one knock is lack of overall impact due to games missed (23) and reduced playing time (just over 24 minutes per game), but I won’t blame him for injuries and reducing his minutes played is a smart long-term decision. Otherwise, he hit every expectation out of park – shooting, defense, relative consistency, and fit. Nico is not perfect, but at this stage of his career, you couldn’t possibly ask any more from him. What he provided this season was more than enough.
Niels Pineda: A
It’s easy to overlook how impactful and important Batum’s contributions are to the team, because he’s just so incredibly consistent. He’s the friend in your life who is just always there. You may lose touch with him for a year or two, but when you reach out, your friendship feels like it never skipped a beat. While he was never going to be able to fill the shoes of Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, he was an important factor in the team’s success this season. His defensive IQ and versatility allowed him to slow down otherwise unstoppable players, including the top two MVP candidates, and his well rounded offensive arsenal helped them in scoring droughts that became all too common. Health is a difficult thing for the Clippers to maintain, but if they can find some stability in this regard, it will be incredibly exciting to see what Batum can do along with the other plethora of 2-way wings the Clippers have.
Randi Geffner: A
Almost always reliably showed up to contribute offensively or defensively; which prompted Reggie Jackson to call him “the best glue guy in the league”. When the Warriors were pursuing Nico last summer, Steve Kerr described him as a “brilliant basketball mind”, which Clippers fans were able to experience this past season as Nico seemed to have solid instincts for being in the right place at the right time. Nic Batum rarely disappointed this past 2022 season, stepping up to fill in giant Kawhi and PG13 sized gaps on both ends of the floor. Not to mention his wife Lily’s brilliant Twitter contributions, which give him a little bit of extra credit toward a solid A grade.
Leave your thoughts and grades for Nic Batum’s 2022 season below!