Last night, the Portland Trailblazers started 6'8" Nicolas Batum at shooting guard for the second straight game. Batum took the place of Wesley Matthews, the regular starting 2. This new look by the Blazers gives them a huge and athletic starting lineup, one that perhaps is meant to keep the pace up while also solving some of their rebounding woes (20th in the NBA in total rebound rate). However, Batum's experience and profile seem to better fit the 3. So is starting him at one of the guard positions an effective strategy?
Well, for the time being, yes. The samples of Batum in the lineup at 2 are small, but they seem to indicate that this strategy might work. Batum has only played 6 percent of the Blazers' minutes at shooting guard, but has posted a 20.4 PER when he does. Even better, he holds opponent shooting guards to a 1.9 PER, limiting them to 15.7 points per 48 minutes and outrebounding them by almost 4 boards per 48. This makes sense as Batum, while no offensive ace, is a pest on defense. His length is enough to bother even the biggest 2's and he doesn't have trouble staying in front of the quicker guards.
The unit stats are in Batum's favor as well. The new starting unit of Felton-Batum-Wallace-Aldridge-Camby scores about 131 points per 100 possessions. Now, this will come back down to Earth with more minutes, but it does seem like this can be a potent offensive unit, especially if Felton figures out how to play basketball again. This 5 man lineup has given up 105 points per 100 possessions, worse than Portland's normal defensive efficiency of 97.1, but if they can effectively outscore opponents, it won't matter.
This is a situation to keep an eye on as Portland continues playing this starting lineup. The numbers will surely even out (especially after last night's embarrassment in Los Angeles), but early indications show that Batum at the 2 might prove enough of a matchup problem in terms of length and athleticism that it will become a permanent installation in the Rose Garden.