Why The Sacramento Kings Should Bring Back Kent Bazemore
After a mid-season trade last year, Bazemore provided Sacramento with a spark that kept them in the playoff hunt well into the end of the season
In January of this year, Kent Bazemore was lost.
The veteran wing was in the midst of his most difficult stretch of play since he was a rookie back during the 2012-13 season.
Playing in Portland behind the likes of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood and Carmelo Anthony, Bazemore’s role was reduced in comparison to his position on the Atlanta Hawks that he was in for the five previous seasons.
After a breakout stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2013, Bazemore signed with the Hawks and solidified himself as an above-average role player on a talented Atlanta team.
His best season as a pro came in 2017-18 when he finished with averages of 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 39-percent from beyond the three-point line.
Bazemore regressed in 2018-19, struggling to find his shot for much of the season before being dealt to Portland during the offseason.
As he did in the season prior, the 31-year-old struggled to shoot the basketball, shooting a career-worst 34-percent from the field and a near-worst 32-percent from three-point land.
Sacramento’s wing role player in Trevor Ariza was also struggling, shooting a career-worst 38-percent from the field. The Kings and Blazers worked out a deal that would give both players a change of scenery, a move that benefitted both teams in the end.
Bazemore was acquired on January 21st in return for Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel.
Head coach Luke Walton quickly inserted him into the rotation, giving Bazemore a majority of the bench minutes at the wing position.
Bazmore’s constant hustle and defensive prowess helped pace the Kings to a 6-4 record over the next ten games–the start to the team’s best stretch of play over the 2019-20 season.
Sacramento quickly benefitted from having Bazemore in the lineup, a player who can knock down three’s, play above-average defense and crash the boards.
After shooting an abysmal 34-percent from the field and 32-percent from the three-point line with Portland, Bazemore turned a corner after the trade, finishing the season shooting 42-percent from the field and 38-percent from three-point land with the Kings.
In February, Sacramento got hot, winning six of eight games to push themselves into the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Bazmore went on a tear over those eight games, scoring 12.1 points per game on 47-percent shooting from downtown while swiping 1.5 steals per contest.
Calling the Old Dominion alumni a spark-plug would be an understatement.
After acquiring Bazemore, Sacramento went 13-7 after the trade and pulled to within just a three games of the eighth-seed in the Western Conference before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the season into a four-month hiatus in March.
Once the season restart took place in the summer months, Sacramento was not the same, with Bazemore dealing with lingering injuries to end the season.
Bazemore finished just behind De’Aaron Fox in steals per game, swiping 1.2 steals per contest (29 steals) over 25 games.
The Kings will enter this offseason in uncharted territory.
With newly signed general manager Monte McNair taking over the front office along with assistant general manager Wes Wilcox, the franchise could make some interesting moves come free-agency.
The futures of Buddy Hield and Bogdan Boganovic will need to be dealt with first before diving into the rest of the roster. But once those players are either signed or traded, the team will need to take a long, hard look at its rotation.
Sacramento Kings fans know how hard it has been to find good depth at the small-forward position.
Before the team acquired Iman Shumpert and then Harrison Barnes during the 2018-19 season, the franchise had struggled to find acceptable production out of the small-forward position. With Barnes under contract for three more seasons, it will be important for the team to staff some solid depth behind Barnes if they want to contend for a playoff spot in the near future.
When it comes to free-agency and the Sacramento Kings, one word needs to come to mind: Realistic.
Signing Bazemore is a realistic possibility. Players coming to Sacramento and wanting to stay in Sacramento is a rare scenario.
“I got here and just kind of hit the ground running,” Bazemore said during the season. “I love building things from the ground up. I’m in a position to really set up my legacy and really help those behind me. This is definitely a place that I can see myself playing, with team with so much promise. I definitely want to be a part of that.”
Star guard De’Aaron Fox shared his appreciation for Bazemore, claiming that the veteran was a solid fit from day one:
“He goes out there and does a lot of dirty work, his shot falling and he can makes shots. The chemistry that we have had since he’s been here, he came and he fit right in.”
It is unknown what the free-agent market could look like when things open up on November 20th.
COVID-19 is likely to have financial implications on free-agent deals, meaning that Bazemore will not be getting a deal near the $19 million that he made in 2019-20.
Sacramento has some decisions to make on Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, along with the team option on Nemanja Bjelica.
As of today, the team has $96 million on the books for 2020-21, putting them just under $14 million below the $109.1 million salary cap. The luxury tax line will be placed at $132.6 million this season, identical to the previous year.
Free-agency will begin on November 20th, and things are likely to move very, very fast with training camps opening on December 1st.
It will be a busy two-weeks for Monte McNair and company, but Kent Bazemore should get a call from the Kings brass on a possible deal–for the right amount.
Getting a full season out of Bazemore, a player who would improve the depth, shooting, team defense and locker room chemistry would be a huge win for Sacramento. Again, this is if Bazemore and the team can work out a deal that would ensure more financial flexibility to make more moves.
Just signing Kent Bazemore will not fix the Sacramento Kings. But it would be a start to solidifying the roster with above-average depth.
Beyond Bazmore, the small forward market is very thin.
If the Kings are to move on from Bazemore, the in-house options are Justin James and Jabari Parker (if he accepts his player-option for $6 million). A reunion with DaQuan Jeffries is possible, but Sacramento will likely look towards veteran presences for next season.
In my opinion, the most realistic–and best–option is Kent Bazemore.
Let’s see what the Kings decide to do during the fastest free-agency window in league history. The team will have just under two-weeks to fully staff its roster for the 2020-21 season.
Should be a piece of cake, right?