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Are the Atlanta Hawks Overpaying Kent Bazemore?

While Bazemore's $70 million, four-year deal is a little more than his play has warranted, this contract is far from a disaster.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2015-16 season, many sports commentators made two predictions about Kent Bazemore. The first was that he would receive a massive raise over the $2 million he was then making, a prediction that proved to be accurate when he signed a four-year, $70 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. The second prediction was that Bazemore would be overpaid (even considering the salary cap spike), a claim that has been the subject of numerous articles since the contract was signed.

To an extent, the claim that Kent Bazemore is being overpaid is true. Even with the salary cap spike this offseason, $70 million is probably more than his talent is worth, and it is quite possible that he could start to decline at the end of the deal. However, this contract is far from terrible, as Bazemore is a valuable piece of the Hawks team and provides hard-to-find talent at the wing.

The best case for Kent Bazemore being overpaid can be found in a recent article on ESPN Insiders ($), where two analysts examined what they deemed to be the worst NBA deals of the offseason. Essentially, these two claimed that Bazemore's real plus minus (RPM) and more traditional statistics like scoring and rebounding were all too weak to warrant his massive raise, even suggesting that the Hawks might be better off without him altogether.

ESPN's FiveThirtyEight doesn't evaluate contracts, but predicts that Bazemore will be worth 1.3 wins above replacement next year, listing him as a solid rotation player. This is far from a bad prediction, but also suggests that his next contract is overpriced.

The ESPN article and FiveThirtyEight prediction give a strong case that Bazemore is overpaid, an analysis that is difficult to argue with. However, there are several other factors to consider when evaluating a player, factors that suggest that Bazemore's contract is not nearly as bad as it could be.

First of all, Kent Bazemore is an integral part of this team. He is a solid defender, a good shooter, and an impressive athlete. The Hawks place a premium on roster continuity, and retaining players like Bazemore allows this strategy to continue. Bazemore turned down bigger contracts to come back to Atlanta, and having players on a team who genuinely want to be there is an invaluable asset. In addition, if he is able to improve his three-point shooting or ball handling over the season, he could easily become an even more important part of the Hawks.

Perhaps even more importantly, this isn't a contract that should come back to haunt the Hawks by any means. Bazemore will be 31 when this contract is up, and should still be a decent player at that point even if he has lost some of his athleticism. Finally, there weren't many other options for the Hawks  at the wing this offseason, and Atlanta probably would have struggled to add the same level of talent for a lower price tag.

Ultimately, Kent Bazemore is overpaid, but not nearly to the degree that several comparable or worse NBA players have been this summer. Bazemore plays hard and is generally well-liked by the fan base, and his contract should be up before he hits any sort of precipitous decline.