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Kent Bazemore featured on Sports Illustrated list of top 100 NBA players

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

NBA training camps open in approximately two weeks and, in short, it feels as if the season is right around the corner. To that end, basketball-driven outlets around the internet will begin unveiling lists of the top 100 players in the league (per tradition) and the first major list came to light on Monday morning.

Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated broke down players 100 through 51 on their list and Kent Bazemore represented the Atlanta Hawks at No. 91 overall.

Bazemore (12.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG) is the NBA’s anti-Forrest Gump: He has an uncanny knack for always just missing out on the action. The 29-year-old guard, who went undrafted in 2012, arrived on the scene with the Warriors just before Stephen Curry and Co. rocketed to dynasty mode. He then had a brief cup of coffee with the Lakers in 2014, a period of deep irrelevance after the ill-fated Dwight Howard experiment but before Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour. From there he landed in Atlanta, where he played a bit role on a team that made the 2015 East finals before finally breaking out in a starting role just as the team’s core was disbanded.

It is actually interesting to remember Bazemore’s career path, if only because he is now the longest tenured member of the Hawks roster. Still, it is also nice to see Bazemore getting a bit of respect for his two-way contributions, as the 29-year-old enjoyed a strong bounce-back campaign in 2017-2018.

Thanks to the four-year, $70 million contract he inked during the 2016 cap spike, Bazemore has gone from toiling in the G-League to becoming the highest-paid player on one of the league’s worst rosters in less than five years. Although he’s clearly overpaid and unequipped to be a playoff team’s best, second-best or third-best player, Bazemore is a solid 3-and-D wing with good size and motor. In an ideal world, he would be cast as a fifth option in a contender’s starting lineup and asked to space the court, pick his spots to attack off the dribble, and bring energy on the defensive end. If Trae Young grows quickly into stardom, Bazemore will be a handy complementary piece. If not, he’ll continue to be grist for the trade rumor mill.

As noted here, Bazemore is certainly a complementary player in a perfect world, but an uptick in his three-point shooting was key to increased efficiency last season. Given the presumed advancement of players like John Collins and Taurean Prince (plus the arrival of Trae Young), it is a safe bet to assume that Bazemore won’t have the ball in his hands quite as often this time around. Still, he was the team’s best perimeter defender a season ago and that might still be the case in 2018-2019.

Kent Bazemore might not repeat as Atlanta’s best player for the 2018-19 season but, given his contributions a season ago, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him recognized as a top-100 player as the season approaches.

Stay tuned.