We’re almost there.
The 2016-2017 NBA season just a few weeks away and, with that, various publications will begin outlining various lists. On Monday, the good folks at Sports Illustrated began releasing their list of the top 100 players in the NBA and, as you may expect, there are some members of the Atlanta Hawks included.
To this point, only players falling between 100 and 51 have been released, but Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore already made the cut for Atlanta. Bazemore landed at No. 90 overall and Ben Golliver had this to say about the dynamic wing:
Although he’s not quite a knockdown shooter or a lockdown perimeter defender, Bazemore has the physical tools, athleticism and enough newfound control to serve as a helpful contributor on both ends. His positional versatility on the defensive end, in particular, makes him a valuable piece for the Hawks and the type of guy who would find a way to fit in on just about any contender. Going forward, Bazemore is probably best served by staying in his lane, as his decision-making with the ball can be erratic and much of his offense is generated by Atlanta’s emphasis on ball movement.
Bazemore will be an interesting case study in 2016-2017, simply because so much has changed around him. Atlanta’s lack of spacing elsewhere (outside of Korver) will place an increased emphasis on Bazemore’s shooting and he also could be tasked with additional creation responsibility, especially if Dennis Schröder struggles in the early going.
Later, Rob Mahoney weighed in on Korver, who (controversially) ranks ahead of Bazemore at No. 70 overall.
A pair of surgeries—one to his ankle, another to his shooting elbow—completely derailed Korver’s 2015-16 season. It took months for his game (and shooting percentages) to course correct, and from that dry spell came Korver’s worst season three-point shooting percentage since 2009. That is not to be overlooked; even a drop into the low-40s in three-point percentage would be notable for Korver considering the lofty range where he usually lives. That specialty is the core of his game. Defenses may choose to guard him the same based on capability and reputation, but central to Korver’s appeal is the capacity to make opponents pay. When he’s unable to do that—as was the case in December and January last season—Korver fades into the background of games. Korver showed over the final months of the season that he can still do enough of that to be effective, though a 35-year-old coming off a season marred by injury deserves some mild pessimism.
The issue of Korver’s slow start in 2015-2016 is no secret to die-hard Hawks fans, and many are placing faith in Korver to rebound after a full offseason of preparation. Still, the age is a concern and the fact that he is the one and only “knock-down” shooter on the entire roster is troublesome in some respects.
It comes across as a surprise to me that Korver would land ahead of Bazemore on a list like this and, with the free agent contract for Bazemore, that adds fuel to the fire. Still, there is no question that Kyle Korver is the more accomplished player and the list also acts as a reminder that Kent Bazemore has a lot to prove in order to remove any notion that he is a one-year wonder.