Charlotte Hornets: Nicolas Batum is a Poor Man’s LeBron

Don’t look now but Nic Batum is having a career season for the Charlotte Hornets and his numbers rival that of some of the best players in the NBA.

How dare I put Nicolas Batum and LeBron James in the same sentence you say? Well, a quick look at NBA.com’s stats section shows that the Charlotte Hornets‘ wing has put himself into some elite company with the numbers that he’s putting up this season. Nic has upped his scoring and rebounding this year while also keeping pace with his assists.

After a career season during his first season with the Hornets last year, the France international has been even better this time around. He signed a five-year, $120 million deal in the offseason and Batum has responded to Charlotte’s faith in him by being the team’s second-best player on a nightly basis. Not to mention that his all-around style of play is rare in the league today.

At a glance, Nicolas’ stats so far this season don’t jump off of the page. But a closer look at them shows exactly how valuable he is and how rare the stat line he’s putting up really is. Only five players in the NBA are averaging the type of numbers that the Frenchman is in the 2016 campaign.

The 28-year old is averaging 15.1 points per game (career-high), 7.4 rebounds per game (2nd best of career), and 5.8 assists (tied for a career-high) this season. Not only is he enjoying a career year but he is also the Hornets leading rebounder and assist man while also being second on the team in scoring. Just like LeBron, he does a lot of everything for his team and helps put them in a position to win games.

James is not only known for being an efficient scorer but also for making his teammates better while he’s on the court and by being an elite defender. Looking at Nic’s game, he does exactly that, just to a lesser extent. Batum is obviously nowhere near LeBron in terms of being a superstar and one of the greatest players of all-time but he does have similar qualities such as being a playmaking forward, defending at a high-level, and being able to not only create for his teammates but also making the right play and scoring when necessary.

Both players are relied upon heavily by their respective teams and are asked to do a lot on both ends of the court. Batum has the ball in his hands a lot and he is the second option on the offensive end for Charlotte behind Kemba Walker.

Plus, like I said before, only a few players are averaging 15+ PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG this season.

Two of those five players are MVP frontrunners Russell Westbrook and James Harden. One is a budding star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, one if LeBron, and the final and maybe most surprising player in Nicolas Batum. While the other players achieve this mark at a much higher clip, there is no diminishing this great feat from Nic.

Two of these players are guards but Batum, LeBron, and Giannis are the only forwards to be averaging these numbers this season. Here’s a close look at their stats:

LeBron James: 26.2 PPG, 8.3 APG, 7.9 RPG, 14 DD, 3 TD
Nicolas Batum: 15.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 7.4 RPG, 10 DD, 1 TD

While Nic’s contract might not make him seem like a cheaper option than LeBron, it is clear that he is a poor man’s King. Batum has quietly become one of the best all-around players in the NBA with the Hornets and he is only continuing to get better under Steve Clifford.

Nicolas Batum won’t become one of the best players in the NBA anytime soon but what he does for the Charlotte Hornets can parallel what LeBron does for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nic does a little bit of everything well and he doesn’t have any gaping holes in his game. He may never draw comparisons to James but with his career season, he is becoming a better player and leading his team in a similar fashion to that of LeBron.

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