Sep 20

Dime Magazine: Damian is the Future, Nic Could Be Most Improved

By caseyholdahl Posted in: damianlillard, NicolasBatum

A couple of Trail Blazers are getting some shine over at Dime Magazine. First, on their list of people who "will shape the future generation of basketball," rookie point guard Damian Lillard comes in at No. 10:
All the talk about the weak competition he faced in college dissipated as he absolutely destroyed his NBA opponents, dropping 23 points and seven assists in his debut, followed by 31 and seven, 27 and three, and 25 and four.

But Lillard’s place on this list isn’t so much about his basketball potential as it is his path to the NBA. It’s been a while since a truly small school produced such a high-caliber player, and nowadays it’s rare to see top players stay in school for more than two seasons. If Lillard does succeed in the league, he may give confidence and assurance to prospects considering smaller schools outside of the Big Six conferences, and let them know that staying for a few years of college doesn’t hurt either.
Lillard and Hornets center Anthony Davis are the only rookies who made the list.

In regards to honors that are more tangible than being considered a shaper of the future, Dime Mag lists Nicolas Batum as one of the ten players most likely to win the Most Improved Player award this season:
Among qualified small forwards last season, Batum ranked eighth in PER (17.32) while posting only the 20th-highest usage rate. Under new head coach Terry Stotts, Batum can expect an increase in shot attempts and more opportunities in the open court. Stotts has also been vocal about Batum getting looks in pick-and-roll sets – both as the ballhandler and the screener. Playing for France in the Summer Olympics, Batum showed his ability to stuff a box score and excel as a team’s secondary option on offense (which he will now be in Portland). Batum’s performance will need to exceed expectations this year, and when they do, look for him to be a solid candidate for Most Improved Player.
The expectations for both Lillard and Batum are sky-high. Whether either or both are able to meet the goals fans and the media have for them is one of the most interesting story lines to watch this season.


  1. I agree with Batum's situation of boom or bust.
    I think Lillard has more flexibility with his future, prove legitimate the first year then explode in season two.

    by mbmurr1 on 9/20/2012 10:46 AM
  2. I thank you for your blog Casey:
    I really don't see why Batum has to be that much more.
    He has in the past been asked to guard the opponents best scorer and has done it admirably. But in doing so sometimes his offensive game suffers. That by itself is reason for inconsistency. also he was told to stay out in the coffin corner to be ready for the three and that takes him out of rebounding and in the flow of the offense. Very few times a play was called for him and if there was he did it very well. Last year no one did great with Jamal and Raymond playing the guard, I believe Nic and Wesley will both improve offensively this year, but everyone forgets they were taken mostly for their defensive ability, and Wesley and Batum together does a terrific job defensively.
    I feel under that Lillard being a terrific draft pick will more then shine at PG and will increase productivity of everybody on the court, mainly Nic and Wesley; In fact, I believe Lillard as being a scoring PG will call his own number often and will actually be the second option to Batum and Matthews.
    So I don't see the necessity to have to prove it all this year.
    We do need LMA, Batum, and Wesley's veteran leadership this year. but with mostly new players in Lillard and a center, both Batum and Wesley needs time to gel also

    by Hg on 9/20/2012 12:18 PM
  3. interesting take, Casey. both these guys will be keys to this team's success this year. i like that Damian went all four years to college. we only have to look at Brandon Roy to see the benefits of that. simply put, guys who stay at school for four years are more mature, which leads to (hopefully) an easier transition from college to the pros.

    The thing about Nicolas this season is that i think he'll get more looks in the offense than he has at any other time in his career. there's no doubt in my mind that he has the skills. the difference now is that he will be an integral part of the offense.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 9/20/2012 3:50 PM
  4. batum is already in the top 25 best player in the league, congrats batum

    by DamianLilard on 9/20/2012 5:11 PM
  5. Great blog, godo way to start my morning at work. I hope Batum lives up to what we expect, but I have a feeling Wesley will get MIP and D-Lil, that guy is our new B-Roy in a sense, I already feel comfortable with him taking THE shot, close game, let him do what he needs to do. Im really excited for this season, and already have my comcast date for October 7th so I wont miss a game in my new pad :)

    by Corey Breiland on 9/21/2012 8:32 AM
  6. @corey Breiland:
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Lillard can stop on a dime and give you change LOL. He got that step back jumper, he can drive to the basket with either hand and his hands are so big he can palm the ball and pass it off the dribble. He can create for himself and for others, and he can make his shots. BRoy 2 in my book. I also think Wesley will be the most improved, unless you are counting rookies then it might be Leonard.
    I am quite envious of you having Comcast, but I have the NBA package and have a home away from home that is out of Comcast black out jurisdiction,

    by Hg on 9/21/2012 3:09 PM
  7. @Kassandra;
    It was brought to my attention that a player playing hard as Nic on D often has to sacrifice their offense because of energy burnt. But with Lillard, LaMarcus and hopefully the re established Wesley with a little Freeland, JJ and Leonard sprinkled in on offense their should not be as much pressure for him to score as the BlazerFandome thinks. I, like you have the fullest confidence in Batum.
    One minor note on staying in college for four years, unless you get the scholar ships and has a high enough grade average there are many Kids that just can't afford the four years of college route and only goes to college to get the reputation to be drafted. The Blazers owning the Idaho Stampede will help that a lot.
    Good to hear from you when is your next blog coming out, after the season starts. You know on that sight that you love so much, sarcasm, is really putting BRoy through the ringer. Other then that it is pretty quite on the Blazer front.

    by Hg on 9/21/2012 3:19 PM
  8. I think that Batum has a far greater chance at becoming MIP than Matthews, although I think it is a stretch to think he could actually do so. Batum won't actually be our second scoring option, but our third. Aldridge is still our All-Star and will get the biggest portion of shots, and Lillard will be our #2, as scoring is simply what he does best. Either Batum or Matthews will be our #3 depending on who's the more efficient scorer on a consistent basis. They can both shoot 3s and do it pretty well but, as Hg said, "A player playing hard as Nic on D has to sacrifice their offense because of energy burnt." THis is certainly true, but I don't think Batum is as good of a defensive player as many people give him credit for. The popular idea is that Batum guards the best scorer on the other team because he is our best defender, but that's not true. He defends the other team's star because he almost always plays the same position as them. A huge number of the NBA's stars are SF/SG guys who are around the same height as Batum. Durant, James, Kobe, Carmelo, Iggy, Wade, Pierce, Rudy Gay, etc. Who else is going to defend them? Batum is obviously by far our best SF so he's going to be guarding guys like that on an almost nightly basis. As long as he isn't playing Power Forward, Batum does alright on defense.
    To counter my own point, I think that when the Blazers self-combusted halfway through the season, getting rid of Camby took away Portland's only real defensive center and in turn made it easier for guys to take Batum to the post and score on him. Having a good defensive center can make everyone else on their team look better.
    Batum seems to be a better defensive choice than Matthews, but I'm not so sure. Some advanced statistics show that Matthews' opponents per-48 minutes stats are slightly worse than Batum's and Matthews' opponents have a lower PER than Batum's.
    Another article on Batum:

    This may not mean too much really, but Blazers fans seem to have a false idea of Batum being a defensive specialist when he's not. Offensively, I think that if he gets more shots and shoot a little better, maybe closer to 50%, then he could be a 20-6-3 guy with a couple blocks/steals per game. Also, with Wallace gone Batum will have a lock on almost all of the SF minutes so we should see him playing 35-40 minutes per game as long as he produces well.
    The idea of Lillard as a B-Roy 2.0 is something that is feasible, but we'll have to wait and see if he can support those statements. I'm excited to have him on board this season and to see him develop into an all-star.

    I am curious to hear your thoughts though, as well as anything I may have overlooked.

    by chris.barnes on 9/22/2012 4:26 PM
  9. @chris.barnes:
    I does not matter that Batum is or is not the best defender we have, whether he does great or not, he burns up much energy just guarding the opponents best scorer. Matthews opponents may have a lower pt avg. then Batum's but Batum's opponent has much more potential. Nevertheless, regardless of him being the best or not he goes after them hard and burns up the energy.

    by Hg on 9/22/2012 10:11 PM
  10. I understand that, and that's a good point. As I said before, I think part of the reason Batum has to spend so much energy on defensive is because he doesn't have a solid defensive center to back him up. I think that an Aldridge-Hickson combo will provide the needed defensive backup that could take some of the pressure off of Batum, kinda like the effect Dwight Howard can have, and force his opponents to take outside shots instead of taking him to the post where he doesn't defend well. Last season, the lineup of Felton-Matthews-Batum-Hickson-Aldridge was the Blazers' highest scoring lineup as well as one of the best defensive lineups ( I think the addition of Lillard will only improve that lineup. With Batum possibly able to exert less energy on the defensive end, that will in turn give him more energy to spend offensively, which is great since having Lillard running the offense will undoubtedly result in a faster-paced offense than when Felton controlled the ball.
    A lot of this is only guesswork and statistics though, and seeing it actually play out on the floor can be different. Guess we'll have to wait and see. I'm sure excited though! :D

    by chris.barnes on 9/22/2012 11:34 PM
  11. @chris.barnes:
    What you are saying does sound good, and I surely am not debating with you, just learning as I go along. Maybe after Nate left Raymond played good D, but I seen many games when him and Crawford just stepped out of the way of drivers to the rim. As you say if we have a defensive center that actually plays D, because IMO, Camby only played D when he felt like it and often left his man early to get rebounds; of course that is all in the past; I am hoping of the little example and listening to Kaleb, that Lillard will be a better defensive player, he is a good student and a willing learner and that is 80% of the battle, plus he already has the lateral movements. He took Rivers to school in the summer league and that is very exciting.
    I only get to watch games on the NBA-package and many of those games are by the opposing announcers, so I only get to see what TV shows, and that makes it hard to see the games inside the game, of which I am not really good at yet either, but am a willing learner; I get 99.9% of my thoughts from reading Casey's, Sarah, and MIKE's blog when he is blogging and when Sarah is back to doing players, although I don't mind the Cheer leading segment she is working on ☺. I also read a lot on BE from Dave and Ben and the commenters, As I have just learned from you and often the lovely Kassandra, my knowledge is improving daily.

    I thank you chris.barnes very good knowledge.
    One more thing, As you said DLill, or little devil, running a faster pace offense with the added ability to play a controlled offense, should do wonders for Nic and Matthews as they both flourish in the open court and well timed pass.
    I just read that someone asked Frye why he could drain all those threes for the Suns, and didn't do it here, and he simply answered Nash

    by Hg on 9/23/2012 5:04 AM
  12. Yeah I understand. My family just got cable TV about a year ago (I'm a poor college student living with my parents) and we get the comcast channel that plays every Blazers game so I watched a lot last season. I'm trying to get the money for the NBA league pass and hoping I can get it before the season starts. I watched that summer league game where DLill schooled Rivers and that's when I really got excited about having him.
    I love this blogging section of the Blazers website and being able to communicate with other Blazers fans. I've tried my hand at blogging over the past few months (, but college has kept me too busy to dedicate too much time to it. I've found that writing your own blog allows you to develop your own opinions on stuff even if it starts out as borrowing ideas from other people.

    by chris.barnes on 9/23/2012 7:54 PM
  13. Nico and Wesley will benefit from Stotts schemes. Last season is no parameter as to the skill sets of either player. Both of them will have major minutes and way more touches than before. We now have a skilled, unselfish pt guard and a coach that knows how to stretch the offense. I'm more than excited about our staff and roster going into the season and think Nico and Wes will earn their big checks under Stotts. The area I want to see improvement in from Nic is passing...he tends to be a lazy passer sometimes. Wesley needs to make every layup he attempts. I'm confident Stotts will address these issues. I think Wes has been working on everything all summer. Go Blazers!

    by riverman on 9/24/2012 10:48 AM
  14. Guess I'm old school and I don't have cable access but I love listening to Wheels on the radio broadcast. I see him in the HOF for broadcasters someday..Batuumshakalaka!

    by riverman on 9/24/2012 10:52 AM
  15. I love Wheels too. While it's really nice to watch the game and see what's happening for yourself, listening to the radio broadcast has an excitement of its own. "Gregg Popovich is staggered, stunned, and stupefied!"

    by chris.barnes on 9/24/2012 3:51 PM
  16. riverman:
    I think Nic and Wesley is the keys to opening up the court; I don't know if I am in favor of putting LMA out further on the perimeter as Dirk plays, his game really improved when he started posting up. But then what do I know. I know LMA likes it better out there, but that doesn't make him better.

    by Hg on 9/24/2012 3:54 PM
  17. Hg: Not only that, but Lillard was a 41% 3FG shooter last season and will open the floor even more. In the past decade, only one of our starting point guards has matched that percentage (I did the research. Steve Blake did it twice). He's poised to be the best point guard we've had in a long time, and that could change everything for the guys on our team, including opening up wing space for Matthews and Nic.

    by chris.barnes on 9/24/2012 4:21 PM
  18. @Chris.barnes:
    That is what I am thinking, I think LMA down on the post would compliment Lillard's game, I am really getting excited about his game. Plus I believe Lillard can hit LMA for that spin alley opp like Dre did. In fact I think he will in time be able to do everything Dre did including posting up with the added advantage of hitting threes.
    In fact, I hope he post Nash up the first game and take him to the cleaners. For sure the lakers won't try to hide Nash on Batum this year.

    by Hg on 9/25/2012 6:58 AM
  19. In some ways I think you're right about him being like Dre, but I'm not sure. Lillard will, as I mentioned before, likely set a much faster pace than Miller since he's very young and energetic. This will be great for Wes and Nic who seem like they would really benefit from more fast-breaks and a quicker offensive pace. He seems like he'll be a better all-around shooter than Dre, which is never a bad thing. I hope that Lillard's passing skills will be close to Dre's, which may be a stretch for a shoot-first point guard, but if he can change that playing with other guys who can score well we may see that change in him. Still, does it seem unreasonable to think Lillard could average something like 18-4-6? I think he could do it.

    by chris.barnes on 9/25/2012 12:28 PM
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