By Sam Perley, hornets.com
One of the more unique, all-around players in the NBA, Nicolas Batum entered his second season with the Hornets looking to build on a career year after coming to Charlotte in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers in June 2015. Fresh off resigning with the Hornets, Batum statistically put up one of the best campaigns of his now nine-season NBA career and established himself as one of the most versatile shooting guards in the entire league.
Busy Summer for Batum
After putting up a strong 2015-16 season, Batum signed a five-year extension with the Hornets in July despite drawing heavy interest from a multitude of other teams around the league. He then spent the rest of the offseason competing with the French National Team, helping Les Bleus reach the quarterfinals in men’s basketball at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Batum’s first six weeks of the NBA regular season got off to a relatively slow start as he put up 13.7 points on 37.9 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals and seven double-doubles in 27 total appearances through Dec. 17. He also registered back-to-back double-doubles from Dec. 5-7, becoming the first Charlotte player to accomplish this feat with at least 14 points and 14 rebounds in each game since Al Jefferson did so in three-consecutive outings from April 4-9, 2014.
Batum’s best stretch of play began in late-December as he averaged 19.1 points on 45.6 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.1 steals in his next nine outings. He totaled 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 103-91 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 23, becoming the first Charlotte player to score 20-or-more points in a triple-double since Kemba Walker did so on Jan. 28, 2012. It was Batum’s seventh career triple-double and third as Hornet, tying Baron Davis for third place on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard.
A knee injury sustained midway through Charlotte’s 115-114 road loss to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 5 sidelined Batum for a pair of contests but he quickly returned on Jan. 13. He played in all of Charlotte’s 17 games leading into the All-Star Break, averaging 14.8 points on 42.3 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.0 steal.
Just three games into Charlotte’s post-All-Star-Break schedule, Batum erupted for a season-high-tying 31 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a 124-121 overtime road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 26. During this outing, the Hornets guard knocked down 8-of-13 attempts from long distance, tying Ben Gordon and Troy Daniels for the most three-pointers made in a single game in franchise history.
During this same road trip in Phoenix on March 2, Batum drained the 1,000th three-point field goal of his NBA career, becoming the seventh international-born player in NBA history to reach this benchmark.
Finishing Season in Exclusive Company
Batum appeared in 19 of Charlotte’s remaining 21 games, missing two contests in mid-March because of migraines. He averaged 15.2 points on 42.7 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals during this stretch and also moved into 10th place on the franchise’s all-time career three-point field goals leaderboard (274).
The Frenchman ended up finishing the year with career highs in scoring (15.1 points), assists (5.9), total free-throws made (243) and total free-throw attempts (284) while recording his second-best marks in free-throw percentage (85.6 percent) and double-doubles (15). Batum also finished third behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden in rebounding amongst all guards (6.2), an average that stands as the second-best single-season mark of his career.
Along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler, Batum was one of just three NBA players this season to average at least 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0-or-fewer turnovers per game. Batum and Antetokounmpo are the third and fourth international-born NBA players to ever reach this threshold and the first to do so since Toni Kukoc in 1998-99.
Additionally, Batum is the fourth different player since the 1977-78 campaign (and first since 2005-06) to total at least 1,000 points, 450 rebounds, 450 assists and fewer than 200 turnovers in a single NBA season (Boris Diaw, Jason Kidd and Fat Lever).
2017-18 Season Outlook
Batum has a guaranteed contract for the next three years with a player option for the 2020-21 season. Although he has represented France in some international capacity for roughly the past 13 summers, Batum will be sitting out this year’s European Championships in order to focus on his NBA future with the Hornets.
“I’m going to be back in the gym in two weeks. I’m going to dedicate my summer to this franchise,” said Batum after the team’s regular season home finale loss to the Boston Celtics on April 8. “I’m not going to play this summer for the French team. I’m going to be back on the court and really work on myself to be back next year [and help] this team get back to a playoff spot. Trust me, it was a really tough decision because I’ve been playing for [France] for a while. I think it’s the best decision for myself and for the [Charlotte Hornets] team.”
Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford added during exit interviews, “I think [Nic] wants to take a summer where he can just concentrate on his game. He’s going to, which I’m ecstatic about, spend a good part of his summer here in Charlotte. He wants to be around the other players. I think it’s great. Selfishly for us, it can benefit him, allow him to have the type of summer that he wants, which will also ultimately benefit us.”