In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The fourteenth installment centers on veteran wing Kent Bazemore.
Atlanta Hawks wing Kent Bazemore has to be getting some serious consideration as the favorite for the “best player that nobody talks about” award. Just a season after producing career highs in nearly every category of the stat sheet, Bazemore has consistently been left off lists of the NBA’s top 100 players. This probably doesn’t matter much to Bazemore, but for those that watch the veteran play on a nightly basis, it almost seems like an insult to have him off such a list.
Bazemore is the true definition of a rags to riches player. Just four seasons ago, Bazemore was on the proverbial NBA scrap heap after being tossed around from team to team coming out of Old Dominion as an undrafted free agent. He signed with the Hawks back in 2014 under the tutelage of Mike Budenholzer and immediately found his niche as a “glue guy” that could come off the bench and give the Hawks high energy minutes.
He continued to get better and, when DeMarre Carroll moved on to Toronto in 2015, Bazemore became a full-time starter for the Hawks. Known more for his defensive skills and occasional spot-up three point prowess, Bazemore was essentially still just a role player. However, he has figured out a way to know his role and maximize his efficiency. That was on full display in 2017-18, with Bazemore posting career highs in three point percentage (39.4 percent), assist percentage (20.1 percent), and steal percentage (2.7 percent).
Bazemore was on pace to play in all of Atlanta’s games last season before injuring his knee in their 65th game of the 2017-18 campaign, but the sample size he provided is significant enough to make a prediction for the upcoming season.
Let’s begin with Bazemore’s ability to shoot the three-pointer. His efficiency was impressive last season while also being a high volume shooter from distance with just over four attempts per game. Bazemore was especially good on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, which he will almost assuredly see more of with the addition of a high-caliber passing guard like Trae Young and also with the addition of a solid passer in Jeremy Lin. That is no slight to Dennis Schroder, who was a good passer in his own right, but many times Schroder’s assists would come from set plays, compared to someone like Young who has the ability to pass someone into an open shot and create more for his teammates from scratch.
It isn’t necessarily fair to call Bazemore a 3-and-D player, because he does so much more than that on the court, but defense is another huge part of his game that he will most certainly want to show off in front of new head coach and defensive guru Lloyd Pierce. Bazemore averaged the most steals of his career last season while also matching his career high in blocks per game as well.
A lot of it starts with Bazemore’s effort and “never say die” attitude, as many of his blocks last season were of the chase-down variety. This doubles as a great thing for the Hawks because it gives this team full of young players an example and standard to play up to as well as just having Bazemore as the premier defensive stopper on the team.
Also surprising was Bazemore’s much improved passing skills last season. He played the game at his own pace and noticeably was attempting to get his teammates involved more often. As the assist stat can sometimes be a deceiving one, it is also best to look at the shooting percentages of Bazemore’s teammates off of passes he made. The numbers back up his assist totals as Bazemore passed his teammates into a 45 field goal percentage and 37 three-point field goal percentage, showing that he wasn’t just getting rid of the ball into a bad situation, but was getting his teammates good quality shots, especially at the three-point line
Bazemore is in the third season of a three-year contract with the Hawks, but he also has a player option for next season that he will almost assuredly take barring an unbelievable season. With a contract that size, Bazemore is going to get as many minutes as he can handle next season despite the Hawks drafting two more guards in the first round of the 2018 draft.
The veteran slots in as the starting 2 guard and proverbial leader of the team despite having a figure like Vince Carter in Atlanta’s locker room now. Bazemore is the final member of the Hawks from the 2014-15 Hawks team that won 60 games, so he knows what it takes to make a winning locker room gel, which is just what the Hawks need right now with a locker room full of 20 year olds.
If you’d like to read more about how Bazemore got here and what is next for him then click here.