Recently there have been rumblings around Buzz City from Nic Batum not being happy with his role in the offense, blaming his struggles on the coaches and new teammates, and while some may be willing to brush this off, I’m not buying what Nic is selling. There are conflicting reports as to what the Hornets expected when the inked the French swingman to a massive deal in the offseason after the playoff run two seasons ago. Was he supposed to be the Robin to Kemba Walker as Batman, or was he there to facilitate for others and his scoring was a bonus. Lets look at the facts shall we, the starting line-up this year has one change. Dwight Howard replaced Cody Zeller, that was it, and while Dwight scores more than Cody he isn’t expected to drop 20 a night just like Cody wasn’t expected to tally big points. The reality is Nic Batum has to put up his share of points every night with the starting line-up this team has, MKG and Marvin are 10 to 12 point a night guys who fill roles on offense but are expected to extend themselves on defense each night. MKG draws the more difficult wing match-up to allow Nic to do his damage on offense, and to keep him fresh for the 4th quarter.
You know the 4th quarter, Winning Time, Crunch Time, the time when stars in the NBA make their checks. They make the plays that decide the games, that get them the big contracts and the post game interviews. The problem is this is when Nic shows off his greatest trick, he disappears without a trace. I started to notice a trend recently and decided to look deeper into the numbers, and what i saw made me throw up in my mouth a little. In the last 11 games Nic has TOTALED 18 points in the 4th quarter, including 6 games where he didn’t score at all. I was shocked at these stats, and for a team that dating back to last season has lost 13 games in a row decided by 3 points are less, I began to wonder if this was a fluke or a real problem.
Now before you tell me about his injury and how its Dwight Howard’s fault for taking shots away looks from Batum, Relax…..we will cover it all.
Batums 4th quarter stats by year in Charlotte: (via NBA.COM)
Year MIN POINTS FG% 3PT% ASSISTS
17-18 7 2.5 38.5 20.7 1.1
16-17 7.8 2.7 31.8 30.0 1.2
15-16 7.9 3.0 36.4 25.6 .9
That is not pretty at all. Now we can argue about whether Nic was kept here to score or not. The simple fact is those numbers do not equate in anyway to a Max Contract player. No matter who is on the court with him, he struggles to help the team win in the fourth, add in the costly turnovers that can sometimes plague him in late game situations and we have to be honest as fans, part of the Hornets 4th quarter struggles have to be attributed to this. I could compare his numbers with anyone, but I went with Jeremy Lamb for a couple reasons. Lamb played with the starters during the time Batum was injured and he is the logical replacement, also this year they average nearly the same minutes in the fourth.
Jeremy Lamb in the 4th THIS SEASON: (for 1/3 of Nic’s salary)
17-18 7.3 4.8 47.1 29.3 .5
The numbers don’t lie folks, and I’ll give you the fact that Jeremy Lamb is not the passer that Nic is, and never will be. I am also not suggesting that Nic is solely responsible for the Hornets late game struggles, but we cannot ignore what these numbers tell us. Only once we identify the problem can we take steps to fix the situation. Hopefully the Hornets can find a way to solve this one soon, because we are running out of season as we speak, and for this team and staff, missing the playoffs could push the Hornets into another stretch of losing like we saw in the Bobcats era.