The 2019 Atlanta Hawks are the most exciting team that the franchise has had in many years. The one player who seems to be suffering from the new regime is Kent Bazemore. He has gone from inconsistent to nonexistent.
Kent Bazemore is the longest tenured Atlanta Hawks player. He is in his fifth season with the club. He’s also the team’s highest paid player. Bazemore will clear just under 18.1 million dollars to play basketball this season and has a 19.3 million dollar option for next year. Kent Bazemore is certain to exercise his lucrative player option, as he is highly unlikely to receive anywhere close to 19 million dollars per year in the free agent market.
Despite his lofty salary, Kent Bazemore has seen his play decline rapidly. His numbers are down in many key statical categories compared to last season. Kent had seen his field goal percentage fall from 42 percent, down to just 40.7 percent this year. His three-point percentage has fallen off of a cliff as well, dropping from 39.4 percent to only 31.1 percent. Both numbers are his lowest since joining the Atlanta Hawks. He has even regressed from the charity stripe, falling from 79.6 percent to 73.7 percent.
When looking at advanced shooting stats, Kent Bazemore has suffered in that area as well. His effective field goal percentage dropped from 50 percent to 47.4 percent. His true shooting percentage is also down. That stat declined from 54.7 percent down to 51.2 percent.
Shooting is far from the only problem area for Mr. Bazemore, as he’s seen a drop in production in many other areas as well. Kent has typically been a good secondary playmaker and ball distributor. His playmaking has declined drastically this season. This is evident by his assist per game total dropping from 6.2 last year, to only 4.3 on this year’s campaign. Bazemore has also seen a slight drop in steals moving from 1.5 to 1.4 per game, while also increasing his fouls from four per game, to 4.8 per match-up. His scoring has taken a drastic dip as well. Kent has dropped from 12.9 points per game in 2017-18, to just 11.8 points per contest in this 2018-19 season. This decrease has come despite Bazemore setting a career high in scoring of 32 points, twice this season.
Some would say that a decline in minutes from 27.5 to 24.8 is partially responsible for the decline in these numbers. Yet I would contend that Bazemore has seen a decline in playing time, due to his less than stellar play. The only areas that Kent has really improved this season, are two point shooting percentage and turning the ball over less. His two point shooting climbed from 43.8 to 47.9 percent, while the turnovers decreased from 2.4 to 1.9 per game. He has also seen a slight increase in rebounding moving from 3.8 to 3.9 boards a game.
Kent Bazemore is still a decent perimeter defender. He is tied for the lead among Atlanta Hawks wing players, giving up 111 points per 100 defensive possessions. That number is also second on the club behind Dewayne Dedmon. This stat is a little misleading, as Bazemore often does not draw the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best perimeter scorer, after struggling in that role earlier this season. That role is now most often filled by DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince. Despite Kent Bazemore’s defensive rating being one of the best on the team, the 111 rating is the worst of his career. In fairness to Bazemore, scoring is up all around the league.
Kent Bazemore suffered an ankle injury on December 28 last year. This caused him to miss 14 games. Since returning, his play has been very lackluster. He has scored in double figures in only 12 of the 26 games he’s played in, since returning to action. Kent only has one 20 point game in that time frame, a 23 point effort in a win over the Phoenix Suns, the team with the worse record in the NBA. He has only scored 15 or more points two additional times in the 26 game span.
Not only has Kent Bazemore scored in single digits in 14 of the Atlanta Hawks last 26 games, he has scored five points or less in nine of those games. This includes two games in which he scored zero points in 32 combined minutes. Most embarrassingly, Bazemore scored only four points against the Chicago Bulls, in a game that lasted four overtime periods. The Atlanta Hawks fell 168 to 161 in the match-up, as Bazemore failed to reach five points in the NBA’s third highest scoring game of all time.
The ineptitude of Kent Bazemore is not just measured in stats. He has taken ill-advised shots and forced drives to the basket all season long. A prime example of bad shot selection, also comes from the previously mentioned defeat at the hands of the Bulls. Rather than pass the ball to rookie Trae Young, who had 49 points at the time, Kent attempted the last two shots of the ballgame, missing both. Both attempts were contested three-point shots, despite being 1-6 from the field, prior to those misses. This is just one example of many times that Bazemore has exercised poor shot selection.
Lack of production is not the only negative impact Kent Bazemore has had on the Atlanta Hawks this season. Kent was expected to be a good mentor to the many young, talented players in the Atlanta locker room. Yet it’s Vince Carter who can be visibly be seen instructing the inexperienced Hawks, as well as standing up for them when more experienced opponents try to bully them or distract them with trash talk. Vince Carter is the veteran leader that Kent Bazemore is supposed to be on this team.
One major area that Kent Bazemore has set a bad example for his young protégé, is in his lack of self-control when protesting foul calls to the officials. According to Fox Sports, Kent Bazemore is eight in the NBA in technical fouls with 12 this season. This puts him just one tech away from being tied for fourth in the league and four away from league leader Russell Westbrook, who currently has been whistled for 16 technicals. Kent has gotten many of these violations at inopportune times late in games. He has seemed to be visibly frustrated most of the year.
Kent Bazemore who is notorious for being inconsistent has nearly become nonexistent. Once loved for his live, fun-loving personality, he has now become a negative influence. Add in his lofty salary and Bazemore has become a total liability. The playing time that he consumes, could be used for the development of a younger player. It’s unfortunate that the Atlanta Hawks have yet to find a taker for Kent as I suggested in this past article on ATL ALL Day. Our Kit Anderson also made the suggestion of trading him at the trade deadline in this article.
The Atlanta Hawks would be best served to shut Kent Bazemore down for the remainder of the season. At that point, it should be the last game that he plays in an Atlanta Hawks uniform. The team should work hard to find a team that lacks athletic wings. As long as Atlanta gets some relief from the 19 plus million owed to Bazemore, without taking on any long-term salary, general manager Travis Schlenk should make pulling the trigger on a Kent Bazemore deal, a major priority in the up coming offseason. It is past time for the Atlanta Hawks to move on.