With Nicolas Batum becoming a free agent, the Los Angeles Lakers cannot miss the opportunity to sign him for all the benefits he would provide.
Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka is rounding up the Los Angeles Lakers‘ roster for next season and he has been doing an excellent job so far, upgrading at any role and position. With the re-signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, most of the job is done, but he still needs to add a few more pieces.
The loss of Avery Bradley has left the Lakers without an important element in the wing rotation. Finding a replacement is the one thing they still need to address.
One player who might be the perfect addition on many levels has just become available on the market.
After signing Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120 million deal, the Charlotte Hornets waived Nicolas Batum to open cap space and the roster spot for the former.
Once considered a premier two-way player in the league, Batum was not only that. A 3&D guy who is a career 35.7 three-point shooter, but also a versatile player, a triple-double threat, able to provide 15, 5 and 5 on any given night.
An all-around player who lots of skills both on the offense and defensive end and a reliable shooter. That is why in 2016 he received a huge five-year, $120 million contract from the Hornets, maybe too much for his real value.
Despite never living up to those numbers and not turning into the star they hoped he would, he still was a really solid player.
Last season, the French forward fell out of rotations. With the team embracing a new direction, focusing on the development of young players and overshadowing winning immediately, the coaching staff gave up on the expensive veteran. He was stripped of his starting role, limited to just 22 games and conceded only an average of 23 minutes.
Despite opting into the fifth year of his contract (for obvious financial reasons), there was clearly not a place for Nicolas in Charlotte anymore. Naturally, along with his playing time, his numbers dropped dramatically as well.
But, above all, on the few occasions, he was allowed on the floor, he looked erratic, almost lost, deferring to younger teammates and lacking the self-confidence of a $27 million player.
With the overhaul Michael Jordan and former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak put in place in Charlotte, Batum was finally waived by the team and he is now a free agent on the market.
Although at first sight he’s not a very useful and productive player, based on last season, he would be in fact the perfect addition for LA.
Nic would be that 3&D they need to replace Bradley, adding depth to the wing department. Not just that. His versatile game would work as a perfect glue for the Lakers’ bench that, in spite of last year’s poverty, is now filled with scorers and productive players who will have to learn to co-exist and share the ball for the sake of the team.
His game would ease the chemistry building process and cooperation of the second unit, helping create plays for his teammates.
At 31 years old, he is still theoretically in his prime. He just needs a team to show him trust, re-instilling the self-confidence he lost. The game is still there. We are talking about a player that just two years ago could score 31 points.
In 2019, he shot 38.9 percent from three. He can be a very serviceable player for a contender.
What makes Batum a perfect target for the Lakers is that he will be accessible to them in their current cap situation. His price would probably be the veteran minimum, the only exception they have left.
The fact that he is being waived and stretched by the Hornets means he will still get paid the remaining amount of his contract, hence, he will probably look for a chance to compete for the championship without worrying about money.
It is a great chance for both Batum and the Lakers. He has the chance to return as a relevant player and finally play for something after being stuck in Charlotte for the past five years. The purple and gold have a role to fill for him, an important one, in the quest for another championship.
Hopefully, the parts will talk and get to an agreement. It is certainly an opportunity Rob Pelinka will not overlook.