The Brooklyn Nets need to hit free agency aggressively this offseason, as there are several holes on this team that should be plugged with the addition of a few veteran free agents. If they want to attack their issues on defense, they should take a very long look at Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum.
Batum has had one of the weirdest career arcs in recent NBA history. One of the most underrated players in the league in his time with the Trail Blazers, Batum left Portland for a huge contract with the Hornets. He was routinely ranked as one of the most overpaid players in the league in Charlotte, and his scoring production dipped to just 3.1 points per game.
Batum stepped on the accelerator with the Clippers, as he paired exceptional defensive versatility with an improved 3-point shot to become one of the best role players on a Clippers team that made the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Bleacher Report has already tabbed Batum as a potential free agent that can put the Nets over the top next season. While Batum seems to have enjoyed his time in Los Angeles, a chance to compete for a conference favorite in Brooklyn could be enough for him to finally decide to trade in LA for New York.
Nicolas Batum could fit well with the Brooklyn Nets.
Batum’s rebounding and assist numbers were similar to what he did during his final year in Charlotte, but he pumped up his scoring up to 8.1 points per game from 3.6 in 2019-20. His shooting splits improved from 35% from the floor and 29% from 3-point range to 46% overall and 40% from beyond the arc.
Batum’s value, however, lies in his defense, as he was able to make himself the sixth-most versatile defender in the NBA by way of guarding all five positions. It was Batum who helped a shorthanded Clippers team go into Utah and take down the mighty Jazz.
Tyronn Lue put Batum at the center spot, creating a lineup full of shooters that drew Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert out of the paint and limited his effectiveness. Brooklyn had some success with smaller lineups last year, and Batum could be the ideal small-ball center or versatile power forward.
While Blake Griffin was able to provide plenty of shooting and dunking after he arrived in Brooklyn, he isn’t a great defender at this point in his career, and potentially targeting Kevin Love if he gets bought out wouldn’t do much in the way of improving that defense. Batum won’t guard 7-footers all game, but he could add some wrinkles.
The Nets had a ton of success with bringing in former Kevin Durant teammate Jeff Green last year, and his ability to space the floor and line up anywhere helped Brooklyn pick teams apart from beyond the 3-point line. Why not add another ring-chasing veteran in Batum? Steve Nash seems to like players who feature that style of play.
Of course, the Nets will have to fend off competition from the Clippers. As Bleacher Report mentions, even the Jazz could look to convince Batum to trade allegiances after he helped knock them out of the postseason.
If Sean Marks is willing to pony up the amount of money Batum wants, the Nets might be able to add a revitalized three-and-D forward that can line up on the wing in bigger lineups, play some lockdown defense on players much bigger than him, and shoot the lights out.
With limited financial flexibility, thanks to the contracts sported by their three stars, signing players like Batum will help keep this team afloat.