Now entering his ninth season in the NBA, Kent Bazemore has come far from the swingman out of Old Dominion that went undrafted in the 2012 Draft. The 31-year old has now played for five different teams and established himself as a key rotation player.
Bazemore is also coming off a big payday, as he finished a four year deal with the Atlanta Hawks that paid him $70 million, including the $19.2 million salary he earned last season while he was with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings after the Hawks traded him for Evan Turner.
From a young reserve on the Golden State Warriors who was more known for his celebrations on the bench than his on-court contributions, Bazemore’s perimeter shooting, defense, and experience will be needed by teams on the free agent market, especially those with playoff and championship aspirations. He averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals, shooting 37.5% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc in 68 games last season with the Trail Blazers and Kings, but put up better numbers in Sacramento after another trade earlier this year.
In 23 games for coach Luke Walton and the Kings, Kent Bazemore averaged 10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting much better at 41.8% from the field and 38.4% from downtown. This is certainly the version of Bazemore that teams looking to acquire his services hope to get. A wing player who can provide shooting and solid defense is sure to find suitors on the free agent market, but here are the best places for a player like Bazemore to thrive and possibly even win a title:
3. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have several important decisions to make this offseason, with guard Fred VanVleet and big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol all hitting free agency. These players were crucial during their run to the franchise’s first title last season, and President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office will look to re-sign most if not all of them. The team will obviously need a big man next to All Star Pascal Siakam should both Ibaka and Gasol leave, but they also need a wing that they can place alongside OG Anunoby and Norman Powell. Signing Bazemore gives the Raptors a veteran player who can shoot and defend and help spread the floor to give Kyle Lowry, Siakam, and VanVleet (assuming he returns) the space to operate.
He already has a good relationship with one of Toronto’s key players, as he took to social media to defend Siakam after his struggles against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last month. In one of his tweets, Bazemore said that the Raptors wouldn’t even make the playoffs without Siakam and encouraged the young big man to keep working.
Should Toronto sign him to a deal, the 31-year old will have a chance to play and achieve playoff success with Siakam as he looks to bounce back next season. There are other 3-and-D wings that Toronto could target in the free agent market, but Kent Bazemore gives them one with experience and someone who has already shown a willingness to play with one of their players.
2. Boston Celtics
With Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart all under contract for next season, the Celtics are set to improve on last season’s run that saw them fall short in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. It remains to be seen whether Gordon Hayward opts in the final year of his contract or opt out to re-sign on a discount, but it will also cost the Celtics, and will likely put them into the luxury tax next season. Boston will likely prioritize having a big man more than having another wing player, especially given how dominant Miami’s Bam Adebayo was in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the Celtics’ wing rotation has shown that it can be injury prone, with Hayward and Brown both missing time last season. Bazemore gives the Celtics another wing rotation player aside from Romeo Langford who can shoot, defend, and be placed alongside Hayward, Brown, and Tatum. After coming off a big contract from Atlanta, he could be willing to accept a cheaper deal in order to play for a contender.
Aside from that, the 31-year old will also give this young Celtics team some needed veteran presence, as the nine-year veteran has also played 44 playoff games. Boston can target other wings on the market, but Kent Bazemore gives them a more affordable option while also being an experienced and well-liked teammate.
1. Golden State Warriors
After not hearing his name called in the 2012 NBA Draft, Kent Bazemore found himself trying out for other teams before the Warriors signed him for the season and brought him back for another year. Even though he played sparingly for the Warriors, he seemed to enjoy himself and celebrating his teammates’ success, even forming a bond with guard Steph Curry, who eventually became the league’s two-time MVP and three-time champion. But if he played sparingly during his first stint with the team, Bazemore will have a bigger role this time around alongside Curry, fellow All Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and young players like Andrew Wiggins and whoever the team selects with the second overall pick in the 2020 Draft next month. Coach Steve Ker and the Dubs have always valued versatility, and Bazemore is someone who can switch and guard multiple positions.
With the Warriors expected to be one of the title contenders entering the new season, a reunion with his former team would also present the best chance for Bazemore to win a title. The problem, however, is that with limited financial flexibility, he may have to take a pay cut and sign with the Warriors on a minimum deal as they continue to fill out the rest of their roster for what is expected to be a deep playoff run next season.
But after a huge payday with the Hawks, and with almost a decade of experience in the league, if Kent Bazemore wants a return to the playoffs and a chance to win a ring, few teams would give him a better chance than the team which gave him his start in the NBA.