Danny Ferry and the Atlanta Hawks entered the offseason with a goal to improve their wing depth and added to that mix on Friday by agreeing to terms with free agent Kent Bazemore. The Hawks have yet to announce the deal but multiple outlets are reporting that both sides have agreed on a two-year deal worth $4 million.
Bazemore drew interest from a lot of teams on the open market this summer and the fear initially was that all of that interest would drive up the price tag. However, he told Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy that he wanted to land on a team where he could play and contribute.
"Right now, I still need to play," Bazemore said. "I only played 23 games down there with heavy minutes for the Lakers; I only averaged like six minutes with the Warriors. My [sample] size is very small. I just need a chance to prove myself again, so minutes are definitely the first thing I'm after. Everything else is just basketball. You hear a lot of guys talking about the bad cities of the NBA and all of that, but a guy like me, I just want another opportunity to go out there and show that I can really be a great player in this league."
Atlanta was in a similar situation last summer with free agent DeMarre Carroll who signed a contract that is identical in amount and length, and then went on to have a career-year as Atlanta's starting small forward. The Hawks likely used Carroll's situation as an example for Bazemore in negotiations.
Bazemore isn't likely to end up in Atlanta's starting lineup but he stands to be a key piece off the bench. He brings added size and athleticism to a backcourt that was undersized last season. He is a good athlete and saw a substantial increase in his offensive efficiency once he garnered regular playing time with the Lakers. He was a better defender in Los Angeles also and that is the area where Atlanta had the biggest need.
While Bazemore saw limited playing time with the Warriors, I asked Golden State of Mind editor Nate Parham for his opinion and he thinks there is plenty of potential there:
"Bazemore's full potential was best on display during the second round of the 2013 playoffs when the Warriors used him against the San Antonio Spurs to guard Tony Parker - he almost went from cult classic to Warriors playoff legend by making a go-ahead layup with 3.9 seconds left of Game 1. He has the length to bother smaller guards and fantastic instincts on the defensive end, as illustrated by his closeout on Manu Ginobili after a blown defensive rotation in that Game 1 loss. He's clearly capable of finding a role in the league as a defensive, energy player off the bench in the right situation."
"But basketball production aside, what I've always loved about Bazemore from covering him since 2012 summer league and at D-League games is that he truly savors every moment of the privilege of being on a NBA roster. There were weekends when he was asked to yo-yo between Golden State and Santa Cruz, eagerly playing the role of enthusiastic reserve on Golden State's bench and then embracing the opportunity to help his temporary teammates in Santa Cruz. And he does it all with a smile and humility that defies stereotypes about the modern pro athlete. He's an undrafted guy who takes pride in his craft and has had to work extremely hard to even get to the point where he's a desireable free agent. It's hard to imagine a better teammate in the NBA than Bazemore and that makes him someone I'll always root for no matter where the remainder of his career takes him."
That last paragraph sounds like the description of the kind of player that Ferry has been looking for since he started remaking Atlanta's roster. Bazemore's signing might not move the needle in a busy NBA offseason but it's a value pickup that is low risk with the chance of a high return.