Nicolas Batum has been an impact player for Charlotte Hornets since arriving from Portland in the offseason. There's no doubt that he'll continue to be a vital player for the team in the postseason. Let's break it down.
Batum did a little bit of everything for the Hornets this season. In 70 games, the swingman averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. The Hornets' Jack of all trades put together 11 double-doubles along with two triple-doubles, which is excellent for any perimeter player.
While 34.8 percent is a very average 3-point field goal percentage, he took 5.7 per game which means that an opponent absolutely has to respect his shot. Alongside Marvin Williams, Batum is able to open up the floor while drawing larger defenders to the outside. If not, that means he's probably wide open.
Yet, it's arguable that scoring is the biggest way in which Batum impacts a game. As a passer, Batum makes his teammates more dangerous. This season, Williams, Courtney Lee, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes on shooting over 40 percent on 3-pointers off of passes received from Batum.
However, Batum loves setting up his point guards for great shots.
Kemba Walker sees an average of 15.3 passes per game from Batum and is hitting 43.8 percent of 3-pointers and 44.9 percent of all shots off of those passes.
Off of 4.6 passes received per game, Jeremy Lin shot 60 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc. Granted, it's not as big of a sample size as Walker's but it feels trustworthy given the production of the rest of Batum's teammates.
The bad news is that Batum has been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Wednesday's season finale. The good news is that he is expected to play in game one but may not be at 100 percent.
As I listed above, you can see why the Hornets absolutely need him on the floor. When the Hornets have won this season, Batum is averaging over 17 points, six assists, and six rebounds while shooting above his season averages. So, not only do the Hornets need him to play, but they need him to play well.
Facing the Heat has been somewhat of a challenge for Batum from an efficiency standpoint. Batum played in all four games against Miami this season but shot just 38.5 percent from the field on 13 shots per game. Still, Batum showed he could be effective from behind the line (38.5 percent) and as a facilitator, averaging 7.0 assists per contest.
When your opponent has a player like Hassan Whiteside who openly scavenges for blocks, that can affect a lot of things your offense does. That may not be the case if the Hornets come out with strong ball movement and 3-point shooting -- things that Batum greatly helps with -- to minimize Whiteside's impact.
Even if Batum's ankle is a little shaky to start the series, the Hornets may be able to get by. In the two Hornets victories over the Heat this season, Batum is shooting just 35.7 percent to 41.7 in victories. Take it out to the 3-point line and Batum is hitting 27.2 percent of his 3's in losses versus 46.2 percent of them in wins. It appears the difference has come for Batum in how well he's setting up his teammates.since he's averaging 9.0 per game in wins versus 5.0 in losses.
That's not to say that Batum doesn't need to shoot well because of course they do. It's just that being able to be that facilitator or encourage good ball movement may be Batum's biggest benefit to his team.