Whilst plenty anticipated that a move at the trade deadline was coming from the front office, few believed that the departure name would be that of point guard, Steve Blake. Fewer would have expected the Lakers to pick up forward, Kent Bazemore, from the Golden State Warriors. Next to nobody could have predicted the positive impact that Kent has gone on to have on the team. However, not a single fan would have suggested that we should consider keeping the former outcast for a second term.
The unexpected acquisition has proven to be just the latest surprise in a season of shocks and twists for the Lakers, as the 24 year-old joins a handful of other names, such as Kendall Marshall and Xavier Henry, who have rejuvenated their stalled careers on Mike D’Antoni’s roster. What does Bazemore really add to the team, how inflated are his numbers and should his return now be more of a given rather than a question?
Who knows what Bazemore really needed in February to revive his career? Increased minutes? A change of scenery? Whatever he desired, his wishes have been fulfilled and his form since coming to LA has been simply astonishing. During his span with the team, Kent has been averaging a surprising 13.6ppg with 3.4 rpg and 3.1apg, making his statline even more appealing. He currently leads the team in steals per game and is shooting an impressive .453% from the field. Not only has he also made his first career start in this period, he’s managed to secure 14 of them along the way. Impressive, ey?
What he really brings to the team, above all else, is athleticism. Whilst he’s not a superhuman, his abilities can certainly be considered to be
well above average and his energy has been a gift to a group that is severely lacking in this department. His explosiveness whilst on the floor adds another dimension to Mike D’Antoni’s offence and in his small ball system, Bazemore has been able to mould his talents to best suit both his minutes and the team’s style of play. As a young player, mistakes are bound to be made, although he also seems to be responding well to these challenges as per Mike D’Antoni…
“He comes in to film session with the young and is there every day asking questions and doing (what he has to do). When he plays, watch him, his activity is off the charts sometimes it’s in the wrong play or wrong thing but that’s what happens to young guys.”
His willingness to improve also shone through at the start of this year’s campaign. After ESPN dubbed him to be the 499th-best NBA player in their yearly rankings, Bazemore stitched that number into the tongue of his shoes. This served as a constant reminder that he is against all odds and that he could perform far above the calibre at which he was touted. This motivational tool has paid dividends as not only are is shooting skills widely improved (.371% in 12/13 to .453% with the Lakers) but his defensive game has also seen a marked development. His remarkable length, athleticism, hustle and drive to compete make him an excellent man-to-man defender with the capability of guarding some of the best in the game. His aggression and versatility makes him a handful to surpass for any NBA player and on a team with significant weaknesses on this end of the floor, Kent’s presence has without a doubt been welcome.
As you can tell, I like this guy quite a lot.
Of course, the main contributing factor towards this ODU alumnus’ rise in form has been due to his exposure to fast, consistent NBA basketball. Averaging 28.7 minutes a game in LA as opposed to just 6.1 at the start of the year up state, Bazemore has been able to mark his territory and find a role under D’Antoni in which he can both contribute to the team and develop his skill set. As we’ve previously said, it’s not as if Mike is foreign to aiding developing players mature their game. What’s most impressive is that Bazemore has been able to almost seamlessly adjust from a role of irrelevance at the Warriors to one of reasonable importance at the Lakers. Match this time on the court with his high work rate and we find a player that is allowed to develop, without pressure on a team that is rebuilding for the future. By demonstrating his prowess and some of the potential that few knew he held, Kent has been able to not only provide a smile to the faces of Lakers fans worldwide in a season of torment, but also sell himself to both this front office and various other NBA GM’s who are looking for an athletic, cheap starlet going forward. For all of these reasons and more, he’s starting to make a compelling case as to why he should stick around beyond the end of this regular season.
It really is tough not to root for this underdog. As both a loveable character off-court and a high energy injection on it, he’s provided a breath of hope and optimism where we saw little before. However, his short tenure with the Lakers could be about to come to an end. Bazemore will become a free agent this offseason. However the Lakers may retain him with a qualifying offer of $1,115,243 for next season, a small expense for a player with such energy, passion, drive and promise. If he can begin to mature even slightly above the level that he is currently performing at then retaining him will be a job well done. Winning championships has always been as much about finding cheap and efficient role players to support your main stars as it has been having these franchise names on your team initially. With this in mind, Bazemore could be a steal for any team.
Although he may not be winning any MVP awards in the near future, Kent Bazemore has given us something of unqualified value. Pride, strength and optimism for the future. His skill set is growing and in a team looking to move forward, he may yet prove to be the most valuable asset to spawn from this disheartening season.