Charlotte Hornets: Just How Valuable is Nicolas Batum?

Mar 12, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum (5) tries to tip a pass to guard Kemba Walker (15) in the first half against the Houston Rockets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum (5) tries to tip a pass to guard Kemba Walker (15) in the first half against the Houston Rockets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

Nicolas Batum had a breakout season with the Charlotte Hornets last year but just how valuable is the 27-year old small forward?

After a solid career high year for Nicolas Batum, the Charlotte Hornets re-signed the French swingman on a 5-year $120 million dollars. Now safely secured for the future, how truly valuable is the point-forward to the Charlotte organization going forward?

Whether hitting teammate in great position, taking ball handling duties, rebounding the ball, overall shooting or the ability to score while taking the foul, Nicolas Batum drastically changed the way the Charlotte Hornets play the game of basketball.

In his solo season playing for head coach Steve Clifford, Batum became a player, coach and fan favorite after exhibiting the high IQ needed to improve an NBA team trapped in mediocrity. For Batum, his value to the team seemingly cannot be contributed to one thing.

Influencing Charlotte Teammates

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Although he is not classified as a superstar player like others such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry, Batum played at such a high level that not only he improved, but teammates such as Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams also improved in their one year together. To point out, the role of a superstar is to not only lead a team, but to also make those around him better. So, in theory, Nicolas Batum played the role of superstar for the Hornets, but Batum offers much more than a roster improvement for Charlotte.

The arrival of Batum would include multiple things for the Hornets; the ability to spread the offense, the added three-point shooting threat, an additional two-way player and countless other things. Charlotte increased its offensive effectiveness from last in almost every category to into the top half of league for offense while also having a top-10 defense. Here are the Batum’s numbers and the team’s numbers prior to the partnership and during the first year.

Nicolas Batum:

2014-15: 9.4 PPG, 4.8 APG, 5.9 RPG, 40% FG/ 32.4% 3P/ 85.7% FT
2015-16: 14.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 6.1 RPG, 42.6% FG/ 34.8% 3P/ 84.9% FT

Charlotte Hornets:

2014-15: 94.2 PPG, 20.2 APG, 44.1 RPG, 42% FG/ 31.8% 3P/ 74.8% FT
2015-16: 103.4 PPG, 21.7 APG, 43.9 RPG, 43.9% FG/ 36.2% 3P/ 79% FT

But for two individuals, Batum’s arrival would prove more fruitful than most. For Kemba Walker, the acquisition of Batum has been a great contribution to his young career. While sharing ball handing duties, Walker enjoyed a nice uptick in points, field goal and three-point percentages.

With Batum’s high IQ, the ability to spread the floor and get players in the best position available spread everyone who shared a floor with him. Among the most affected, Walker would play at an All-Star level. Here is a sample for Walker’s improvement before and during Batum’s inaugural season:

Kemba Walker:
2014-15: 17.3 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.5 RPG, 38.5% FG/ 30.4% 3P/ 82.7% FT
2015-16: 20.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.4 RPG, 42.7% FG/ 37.1% 3P/ 84.7% FT

Another player who enjoyed an improvement during Batum’s arrival would be Marvin Williams. Williams has always been a player who could provide solid points and minutes for the Hornets, but the added facilitation of Batum would prove to help Williams as well. Williams has become the prototypical stretch-four that most teams covet in the NBA. Able to defend multiple positions as well as shoot from in and outside of the three-point line, Williams was never able to live up to the his 2nd overall position in the 2005 NBA draft.

However, Williams was able step up big time for the Hornets. While playing last year with the Hornets, Williams would step into a leadership role as well as increasing his efficiency. With Batum distributing, Williams would receive looks more often and in better position to score. Like Walker, Williams would enjoy an increase in field goal percentages across the board. Here are a couple quick stats for Williams both before and during Batum’s inaugural season:

Marvin Williams:

2014-15: 7.4 PPG, 1.3 APG, 4.9 RPG, 42.2% FG/ 35.8% 3P/ 71.3% FT
2015-16: 11.7 PPG, 1.4 APG, 6.4 RPG, 45.2% FG/ 40.2% 3P/ 83.3% FT

International Value

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Nicolas Batum is an international player who extends the reach of the Charlotte franchise into a rich French culture. In a league with stars whose name, athletic feats and brand already reach most countries, a young starless team like the Charlotte Hornets can easily miss out or become virtually nonexistent. To most, the world only knows of the Hornets as a team run by owner Michael Jordan, or most recently the team that Jeremy Lin called home for one season, but the arrival and resigning of Batum both increases the fanfare and popularity of the small market team.

With talk a team’s popularity and fanfare with an international player, the aspect of reaching a new audience as well as merchandise sales become more evident. With Batum, the Hornets have one of the best French players contracted for five more years. While adding to their fans, the Hornets increase their international popularity and merchandise sales, having an increase of potential French and European fans watching the team as their beloved player represents an otherwise localized team.

Through Batum, the Hornets have a player capable of playing on a national team as well as a player capable of making an All-Star game. Potentially, having an asset with the talent and opportunity that Batum does could net in excess of thousands or millions of added revenue.

Influencing Free Agents

The success of Batum and the Hornets could also directly influence the many players searching for homes. Having not one but two borderline All-Stars in Batum and Walker would be beneficial in the sales pitch to the targeted players. Batum’s success, leadership, distribution, international fame and friendships with the wide range of players in the NBA could mean more to the hundreds of players available next year.

With an unselfish Hornets team complete with an above average distributor like Batum, offensive minded players would thrive with a player of his caliber. After playing with players such as Damian Lilliard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews, and friendships with fellow international stars like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ian Mahinmi, Batum has more of a chance to influence players than any other on the Charlotte squad. Years of playoff experience plus the all-around skill he possesses could attract the players targeted and/or deemed necessary to the team’s success.

Although Charlotte is still a growing team, there are few holes that need filling. Walker, Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist effectively combine to make the foundation of the team with Marvin Williams providing the veteran leadership and mentorship for a young Frank Kaminsky who will possibly become the heir to the power forward position. So, a possible center or more could possibly be found with the help of the 27-year old French international.

Influencing Charlotte’s Culture

Who would believe that Nicolas Batum makes more money than any other Charlotte athlete, past or present, including Cam Newton and Luke Keuchly? With a five-year $120M contract, it’s safe to say Charlotte and Nicolas Batum are both committed to each other. After reaching the post season in his first season, and directly having an influence in the success of the team, the front office opened its hearts and wallets to a player who wholeheartedly wanted to remain in Charlotte.

While re-signing, Batum even allowed himself to take a home team discount to remain with the team. With the opportunity to make around $150M in charlotte or roughly $130M elsewhere, Batum’s discounted price allowed the team to secure Williams for four more years. The willingness to sacrifice $10-20M not only shows loyalty, but belief in the success of the team.

Additionally, Batum’s presence also could also have a direct effect on Charlotte’s economy and businesses. French cuisine and aromas could fill the Charlotte skies as Batum plays for the hometown team. In an effort to show appreciation as well as make him more comfortable in his US home, the Charlotte residents not only buy the tickets to see Batum and the Hornets, they also welcome and comfort him.

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It’s clear that Batum loves Charlotte and his new teammates while Charlotte and his teammates love him as well. The value of Batum cannot be measured on a small market team such as the Hornets, and as the partnership continues to grow and flourish, the city will continue to grow and flourish simultaneously.