Doolittle: Batum Projects As Fifth-Best Small Forward
Bradford Doolittle at ESPN.com continues the unenviable task of putting together position-by-position WARP projections for the 2013-14 season. After projecting Damian Lillard as the tenth-best point guard
last week, Dootlittle lists Nicolas Batum as the fifth-best small forward
based on projected WARP.
5. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.8
Batum's steady improvement hit a plateau in his fifth NBA season, and his 2.2 percent loss in usage rate suggests that playing alongside Damian Lillard may have actually impacted his game in a negative fashion. For Portland to get back into the playoff hunt this season, Batum needs to be a stronger No. 3 to the core duo of Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Right now, Batum is perimeter-oriented, but his 3-point success rate was just around league average last season. He's been around 40 percent a couple of times, and if he can get back to that, then perhaps he can make more plays off the dribble and get to the foul line more often.
Batum is preceded in the rankings by Kevin Durant (whose 2013-14 projected WARP of 18.3 is more than double that of the next small forward on the list), Paul Pierce (uh, yeah), Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguodala. Batum is ranked above Danny Granger, Paul George, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons and a whole bunch of other higher-paid small forwards who didn't even make the list.
Also worth noting that Doolittle decided to categorize both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as power forwards, which is why neither shows up on the small forward projections.