Andrew R. Tonry touched on it below, but it is worth repeating. Kendrick Perkins is a lumbering presence below the basket for the Celtics, and because of that, he's tops in the NBA with an excellent 63% shooting percentage. Nicolas Batum is shooting 64%, and unlike Perkins, these aren't just mere tip-ins, put-backs, and jumpers within a few feet of the rim.
Of course, Batum has only been back for five games, so that's a loaded number. It will decrease. Right? At this point in this baffling season for the Trail Blazers, it's hard to predict how anything will shake out. In the player pile-up at the SF position, most Portland fans will take Batum over Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw based primarily on the second year player's potential. He might not have the clutch scoring of Outlaw, or the outside touch of Webster, but someday he just might.
But did anyone see that someday coming so soon?
After a Summer spent repping les couleurs for the French National Team, Batum returned to the States, along with the deafening buzz that his game significantly improved. No longer just all-arms and defensive stops, Batum's offensive game blossomed (I know a summer in France and the term "blossomed" sounds like the description of every art house coming-of-age film: "She was a girl from America, who blossomed into a woman in Paris..."), but all that was derailed when he tore his labrum and missed the majority of the first half of the season.
Defensively, it's pretty clear that Batum has not missed a step. Both Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson are still shaking in their bunk beds (the Bobcats save money by bunking up) after Batum's hand spent the final quarter of last night's game squarely in their respective grills. It might have been the finest defensive shutdown on the Rose Garden hardwood since Webster gave Kobe Bryant fits during the Blazers' 107-98 victory in early January. But it's Batum's offense that has been so extraordinary. In this five game preview off the bench, Batum has displayed an offensive killer instinct only hinted at last season in his pair of memorable highlight reel dunks over the agape jaw of Pau Gasol. In very limited numbers he's still a threat from beyond the arch (40%), but it's near the rim that "Frenchy 88" has done the most damage. Whether or not Batum is in the starting five come Wednesday remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that what we are all witnessing from Batum is his vast potential quickly becoming reality.