The Portland Trail Blazers have a lot of free agents they need to re-sign, but that’s not the only potential change we might see. Nicolas Batum, with one more year left on his deal and coming off a bad offensive season, might actually be traded.
There’s the option of taking Batum and a draft pick to try and put the Blazers in a position to draft in a lottery spot, getting a player who can be an immediate contributor. The Blazers need to improve, and this season showed that the current group of players needs a little shaking up in order to become more than just a playoff team.
Batum significantly regressed last season, scoring just 9 points per game while shooting 40% from the field, declining in pretty much every offensive category except for free throw shooting, whether it’s total numbers, averages, per minute or per possession. His defense is still fantastic and is one of the best wing defenders in the league, but no one is talking about the next Scottie Pippen anymore.
He’s also going to be the highest paid player in Portland as of now, making $12.2 million a season. Actually, it’s hard to believe he’ll remain at the top spot, and not just because there’s a trade potential on him. If LaMarcus Aldridge is re-signed, it’ll be him. Wesley Matthews might make more than him as well. Even if Aldridge isn’t signed, the Blazers are going to go after someone who they’ll make a very highly paid player. DeAndre Jordan? Greg Monroe? There are options out there.
Batum is a free agent at the end of the 2015-2016 season, making him an appealing trading chip even if his scoring ability has gone rather south. Not to mention his defense and sometimes clutch ability. He’s only 26. He’s not some washed up player facing his last days in the league. He just might have had a bad season (also missed 11 games with an injury), something players have bounced back from hundreds of times.
It’ll be an interesting offseason for the Blazers, maybe for more than anyone else. The re-signing questions of Aldridge, Matthews, Robin Lopez and the player option of Arron Afflalo; the contract extension to Damian Lillard; and now, also the option of trying to turn Batum into a better draft pick and a more immediate form of contribution. This might be a very different team in a few months than the one that finished the season in the first round of the playoffs.