It's a lot of money -- possibly even too much -- but there's no question that Portland made the right move Wednesday in matching Minnesota's offer for Nicolas Batum.
Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey had said all along that the team would match any offers for its 23-year-old restricted free-agent forward, and the Timberwolves insisted that Olshey was bluffing.
Minnesota signed Batum to a four-year, $45 million offer sheet, after trying for at least a week to pull off a sign-and-trade deal with Portland. Olshey, not liking the pieces Minnesota was offering up in trade for Batum, never budged, and I suspect it won't be long before Trail Blazers fans are glad he didn't.
Batum fell out of favor with some fans after making it clear he wanted to leave for Minnesota. Well, let's qualify that -- his agent made it clear he wanted to leave. Batum was simply tired of being under-utilized in Portland, and with the way former coach Nate McMillan used him on offense -- having him camp out at the 3-point line -- I can understand his frustration.
Batum is a good 3-point shooter -- he set a team record this past season with nine treys in a game -- but he's also good at getting to the hoop and, frankly, there's nothing wrong with a guy wanting to be more involved in the offense. Heck, under McMillan, there wasn't much offense, so who can blame Batum on this?
The young forward has a lot of offensive gifts that we've seen, and some that we really haven't yet, and others that merely need to be developed more (that was another knock against McMillan dating back to his days with the Sonics; he simply wasn't good at developing young talent).
In addition, the 6-foot-8 Batum is an excellent perimeter defender, which is a great attribute for a guy who can play both the 3 and 4 spots well. He's even played 5 at times, when the Blazers were completely out of centers, and although it's not an ideal spot for him, he can pull it off in certain rotations.
Even with all that, though, Batum is going to end up getting over-payed at this point. Yes, I said it, and I'm a big Batum fan. Didn't Carmelo Anthony recently call the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer to Jeremy Lin "ridiculous?" Lin will no doubt bring in a great deal more dollars to Houston than Batum will to Portland -- in terms of merchandise, if nothing else -- at least initially. But if three years, $25 mil for Lin is ridiculous, then what's four years and $45 for Batum?
It's too much, if for no other reason than because the guy hasn't yet had a chance to show he's worth that much. But that's the nature of free agency and salary caps these days. And besides, I suspect Batum will end up earning it before the contract is over.
Still, even if they are having to overpay a bit, the Blazers made the right move in keeping Batum. He'll be a valuable piece of the puzzle, this season and beyond.
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.