After a bit of time to allow the 2017-2018 season to breathe, there are a number of on-court questions to answer and, in this space over the next few days, the Peachtree Hoops staff will spring into action to tackle them. In our first roundtable, our writers weigh in on who the team MVP of the Atlanta Hawks was for the 2017-2018 campaign.
Brad Rowland: Kent Bazemore. Because of his season-ending injury, this ended up being a lot closer than it would have been if he appeared in 75-plus games. Still, Bazemore was easily the team’s best wing defender and carried an increased offensive load while substantially upping his efficiency from last season. Make no mistake, it isn’t as if Kent Bazemore would be the most valuable player on a good team but he is a starter-level player and the Hawks were much better (3.8 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor than without. We all know about the contract but, if you ignore it (and you should for this exercise), it becomes clear that Bazemore was good this season.
Jeff Siegel: It’s absolutely Kent Bazemore. He was perhaps the team’s only positive perimeter defender and certainly the only one in the starting unit, plus he made massive strides forward as a playmaker this season. Add in a career-best 39.4 percent from beyond the arc on the most attempts of his career and it’s clear that he was the MVP of the team this year.
Graham Chapple: Kent Bazemore and it probably wasn’t even that close all things considered, which is the biggest surprise for me. Similar to what he says on that Sharecare promo when he says that the fans are the heart of the Hawks, Bazemore is the heart and soul of this Hawks team.
Bazemore has improved this season but if you compare some of the numbers from this season to last season (the season most people would’ve labelled a disappointment [and I know part of that is due to his contract]), some of them are quite similar statistically: an increase of only 1.8 points per game, a .6% in field goal percentage, .6 increase of rebounds per game and even an increase in turnovers from 1.7 to 2.4 per game. The big increases come in three-point shooting, a 4.4% increase in three-point shooting, a whopping 8.8% increase in free throw percentage on 3.2 attempts per game this season (up from the 2.3 he attempted last season) and a 1.1 increase in assists per game from 2.4 to 3.5 per game -- he has worked meticulously to improve, never settling despite the financial/roster stability.
Still, if you’re not watching the games and seeing just the numbers, Schroder’s will look better on paper but the thing with Bazemore’s season is that it cannot purely be quantified by stats but by his leadership, ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor and just all of the little things he does on/off the court. And that’s why most of us here at PTH will be saying Kent Bazemore for Hawks MVP.
Bazemore was the Hawks’ best defensive player and averaged 1.6 steals per game this season, his defensive instincts at their peak this season. He was also their leader, their rock, the heart and soul as he embraced a leadership and mentorship role this season.
He went from the guy fans all wanted gone to the one they have reconsidering whether the Hawks should trade at all, despite his contract not being the best. That’s the mark of a great season.
Glen Willis: Kent Bazemore. He had the best statistical season of his career. And it was not just the result of him chasing box score stats. He was more efficient as a shooter and improved as a facilitator. He was also the team’s best defensive wing by wide margin. Additionally, he was the clear leader of the young team and invested in keeping spirits in a good place even during long stretches of losing. They team competed game in and game out even to the final minutes of the final game of the season. And the young players are likely going to be better as a result.
Greg Willis: Kent Bazemore. A quick look at the stat sheet might give the impression that Schroder was the team’s best player. But, for those who watched this team game in and game out, the easy answer is Bazemore.
Sam Meredith: Kent Bazemore and it is not particularly close. It was so sad to see Baze’s season cut short by injury because he was headed for the best season yet. His 1.1 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) was the second highest of his career and there is no doubt that he would’ve posted the highest mark of his career with a full season. It is also awesome to see Baze shooting almost 40% from three in a large sample size while playing to the tune of a 1.1 DBPM (Defensive Box Plus Minus) making him one of the most complete players out there. I think he played up to his contract this season while healthy which is not easy to do with the contract he was given.
Xavier Cooper: If we’re talking defense, Kent Bazemore is the MVP in that category hands down. Even on offense, he’s had his most efficient season of his career. But I have to give the overall MVP nod to Dennis Schroder. The team just isn’t the same if you eliminate Schroder from the equation. Outside of Schroder, no one else could really create their own shot on a consistent basis. Though he had to scratch and claw for every point he put up, it doesn’t change that fact that he almost averaged 20 points per game and 6 assists. No Bazemore, the Atlanta Hawks would’ve had a worse record of course. But I’m scared to think of what their record would have been without Dennis Schroder’s scoring and ability to dish the ball.
Josh Lane: Kent Bazemore was more efficient this year and was possibly one of the few players on the team that was not a detriment on either side of the floor.
Zach Hood: Kent Bazemore. As Jeff noted, a career high three-point percentage on a career high in attempts is impressive and promising. He provided consistency on both ends of the floor for the Hawks and was easily the team’s best wing defender. He can guard almost anyone from one through three if he has to and provided a spark this season, as he has throughout his career, with his energy hustling end to end, getting steals and chasing down loose balls. Bazemore also became a leader for this young Atlanta group. When he got injured he became the biggest cheerleader on the bench, rooting for his teammates to pull out unlikely wins. It was a career year for the veteran wing from a statistical standpoint and despite the Hawks lack of team success he improved in all aspects.