caseyholdahl

Jan 22

ESPN.com: Batum, Lillard Among NBA's 25 Best Players Under 25

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, damianlillard, NicolasBatum, Pacers

ESPN.com's David Thorpe and Kevin Pelton compiled a list of the NBA's 25 best players under the age of 25. It's an impressive list of talent, which includes both Nicolas Batum at No. 16 (New Orleans' Ryan Anderson is No. 15 and Philly's Thaddeus Young in No. 16) and Damian Lillard and No. 21 (Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders sandwich Lillard at No. 20 and No. 22, respectively).

Thorpe addresses how each player is performing now with Pelton projecting out for future seasons. Here's what both had to say about Nicolas Batum, who was ranked No. 21 on last year's list:
Current: Batum has transformed from solid starter on a bad team to one of the best two players on a strong playoff contender. He has improved as a shooter and is one of the best few wings in the league at defending ball screens and handoffs -- likely the two most difficult actions for wings to guard. His length and added strength allow him to make plays most can't make, and he's both a legitimate wing scorer and someone who values "Gretzky's"  that all-important extra pass; he rarely gets "sticky" with the ball. -- Thorpe

Future: As long as Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard as its primary options on offense, Batum might not be able to take on many more possessions. Still, Batum's growth as a playmaker this season gives Terry Stotts more options in how to use him. Despite his wingspan, Batum still struggles to defend physical small forwards who can overpower him. Adding strength will help. -- Pelton
And here's their assessment of Lillard, who didn't make the list last year for obvious reason:
Current: Lillard is proving that the line between mid-major and high-major college players is almost non-existent. He's quarterbacking a team through the rugged west and into a strong playoff position. Lillard has a lot of Kyrie Irving in him, a solid athlete with a huge set of skills and an excellent feel for game management. He is poised to see big improvement in the second half of the season, but he already is excellent as a spot-up shooter and pick-and-roll player. -- Thorpe

Future: Because Lillard came into the league so polished, it's difficult to find areas for improvement as a scorer. While he makes good decisions, Lillard can still show growth as a playmaker by seeing more opportunities for passing lanes. Lillard's major growth must come at the defensive end, where he has been abused by top opponents. He has a particularly tough time negotiating screens. -- Pelton
While Lillard is likely to move up the 25 Under 25 list over the next few season, this will be Batum's last appearance, as he'll be 25 on Dec. 14, 2013. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2 Comments

  1. Nice read! Pre-season, 104 ESPN "expert" contributors had rannked Batum at 64th in the NBA and Lillard 211th.

    by Blazer Fanatic on 1/22/2013 6:08 PM
  2. Love me some "Legend Of Lillard" & BATUMSHAKALAKA! I'm glad they're getting some recognition they deserve it.

    by CarlJ1 on 1/23/2013 4:09 AM
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