It’s official, Hornets fans: Nicolas Batum is the worst scorer in the NBA.
We’ve all seen the long stretches when the Frenchman plays smart defense, makes good passes, but completely avoids shooting the basketball. Intuitively we knew his scoring was bad this year, but until I did a little research I didn’t realize just how bad it truly was.
Batum has averaged just 3.5 points per game this season despite averaging over 22 minutes per contest. If every Charlotte player scored as many points per minute as Nicolas does the Hornets team would average 38 points per game. Just let that sink in for a minute.
Per Basketball Reference there are 221 players averaging at least 20 minutes per game this season (minimum 10 games played). Batum’s 3.5 points per game is the lowest in the NBA among those players. Al-Farouq Aminu’s 4.3 points per game is the next lowest.
Even when normalizing scoring averages by looking at points per-36 minutes, Nicolas still has the worst scoring average among the 221 players who average at least 20 minutes per contest. Batum’s 5.7 points per-36 is lowest in the league with Khem Birch’s 7.1 points per-36 as the next lowest. No matter how you look at it, there isn’t a single regular rotational player in the NBA who scores less than Nicolas Batum.
What’s going on?
While Nicolas Batum has never been a prolific scorer, he had at least been fairly consistent throughout his career prior to this year. In his 11 NBA seasons leading up to 2019-2020 he had averaged somewhere between 10.0 and 16.4 points per-36 minutes each year. His 5.7 points per-36 this season is by far his lowest output and nearly half of the 10.7 points per-36 he averaged last year. He’s also shooting career lows from the field (36.4 percent) and from the three-point line (27.3 percent).
The biggest reason for his offensive decline this year is Batum has simply stopped attempting two-point field goals. Of the 44 field goals Batum has attempted this year, 33 have been 3-pointers and just 11 have been two-point field goals. That ratio might make sense for an Eric Gordon-type three-point sniper, but Nicolas is far from that.
At 31 years old Nicolas Batum should just be on the tail end of his prime. By way of comparison, Stephen Curry is also 31. James Harden and DeMar DeRozan are 30. Batum is a 12-year veteran, but he’s not old. Fracturing a finger on his left hand in the first game of the season definitely didn’t help matters, either, but if he’s healthy enough to play he should be healthy enough to be more aggressive in trying to score.
Please understand that this isn’t a Nicolas Batum hit piece. I genuinely like the guy. He has been nothing but a consummate professional and a great teammate during his five years in Charlotte. That’s all true, but so is the fact that he’s now officially the lowest scoring player in the league.