The Philadelphia 76ers are off to a hot start to the season, and a big part of that has been the increased depth the team now boasts. After trading away James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Sixers received a return that included K.J. Martin, Marcus Morris, first-round picks, and, of course, Nicolas Batum.
While many at first overlooked the NBA veteran with 1000 career games, the stretch four has been the perfect P.J. Tucker replacement through his first four games in Philadelphia.
While Batum’s excellent start is based on a significantly small sample size, the value he is clearly bringing to the time cannot be overstated. For Philadelphia, Batum is averaging 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with incredible efficiency.
His field goal percentage currently sits at 66.7% and his three-point percentage is at 61.5%. His production increased last night as well in the Sixers’ 137-126 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Batum had nine points and seven rebounds while going 3/5 from beyond the arc. Not bad for a guy with 1000 career games.
The problem with Philadelphia’s power forward play last season was that both P.J. Tucker and Georges Niang were specialists. Niang may have shot 40.1% from three but averaged only 2.4 rebounds a game. P.J. Tucker was a great enforcer and defender, but his offensive game was tied directly to James Harden.
With Batum, the Sixers appear to have found the perfect blend of rebounding, defending, and shooting to pair with reigning MVP Joel Embiid and rising superstar Tyrese Maxey. Since Kelly Oubre Jr. is slated to miss significant time due to his injuries, the Sixers would be wise to continue having Nicolas Batum start.