Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There are only a few players in the NBA who are bona fide seven-category studs.
Most are predictable -- Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant are the big three -- but there's one who might surprise you: forward Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Batum is hardly the most talked about player on his own team -- LaMarcus Aldridge is the All-Star and Damian Lillard is the Rookie of the Year contender. Heck, even his back injury earlier this season was overshadowed by the hip injury of Wesley Matthews, who had never missed a game in his NBA career. The most publicized moment of Batum's career to this point has been his groin-punch on Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro in the Olympics.
But Batum is quietly plugging along as one of the best all-around players in basketball. The native of France started his ascent last season when he averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.8 threes per game with .450/.836 percentages, but he has taken it up a notch in 2012-13.
Through 29 games, the fifth-year forward is averaging 16.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.5 threes per game with an .865 free-throw percentage through 29 games.
Durant is the only other player in the league who can boast averages of at least 15 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 threes with a free-throw percentage better than .800.
LeBron James can't; he's only shooting 72.1 percent from the free-throw line and averaging 0.9 blocks per game. Paul, Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden can't either; they don't have the blocks.
In fact, Durant and Batum are the only players in the NBA who are averaging at least 1.0 blocks and 1.0 threes per game.
Paul and Bryant can check off averages of 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 threes and 1.0 steals per game and a free-throw percentage of at least .800. That makes them six-category contributors, and they reach the seventh category by shooting better than 45 percent from the field.
Anthony makes the grade in six of those categories but falls short in the assists department (2.0 per game). And Harden is closing in on joining Paul and Bryant if he can get his .445 field goal percentage above .450.
Batum is only shooting 41.9 percent from the field, which prevents him from joining even more rarefied air with Durant as eight-category stars (Durant is shooting .513).
Batum's stiff back only caused him to miss one game but it did affect him in two others -- he scored just 10 points with six assists, two rebounds, two steals and two threes in 46 minutes over a two-game span from Dec. 5-8.
However, he has moved past that injury to return to his normal level of production, including an extremely rare 5x5 game (at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks) on Dec. 16 versus New Orleans, two days after his 24th birthday. He had 11 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and five blocks in that game.
Since 1985-86, there have been only 15 such games by seven different players -- Hakeem Olajuwon (6), Andrei Kirilenko (3), David Robinson, Derrick Coleman, Vlade Divac, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Camby and Batum -- according to basketball-reference.com. Among those seven players, only two -- Kirilenko and Batum -- actually hit a 3-pointer in their 5x5 games; Batum had three in his, nearly locking down a 5x6 game.
Batum has made it perfectly clear that he's capable of drilling five threes in a game; he has done it six times already this season, including Tuesday against the Knicks when he made a season-high six in a 26-point effort, so a 5x6 game really wouldn't be much of a stretch for the 6-foot-8 Frenchman.