The Atlanta Hawks selected three players, including two in the first round, during Thursday's NBA Draft, but that is simply one piece of the overall puzzle for the organization. In addressing assembled media following the draft, Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox was asked about Atlanta's free agent plans in relation to the recently completed draft strategy, and he shed some interesting light on the decision the franchise faces with Kent Bazemore.
"Kent Bazemore is absolutely a Hawks priority. We love Kent. He’s a huge part of what we do, and I don’t think there should be any confusion as to how important Kent is to us."
Bazemore, who turns 27 years old on July 1, is facing unrestricted free agency, and the Hawks possess only his "early Bird" rights, leaving the team vulnerable to a large contract offer elsewhere. However, Atlanta did open up additional cap space with the trade of Jeff Teague, and given Wilcox's comments, it could be safe to assume that the Hawks will be making a lucrative offer to retain Bazemore's services using that salary cap room.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard averaged 11.6 points per game while converting 36% of his three-point attempts on the season, but more than that, Bazemore is a strong defensive player that presents real value on that end. On one hand, it is somewhat surprising that the Hawks would be this revelatory when it comes to free agent planning, but at the same time, this front office faces a somewhat limited free agent market elsewhere and Bazemore might be the best option available (for reasonable price) on the wing.
The night of the 2016 NBA Draft will be remembered for the acquisitions of both Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry and the steps the Atlanta Hawks took in order to build for the future. Still, Kent Bazemore's free agency looms (along with that of Al Horford) and it may be more likely that he returns than originally thought.