Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Kent Bazemore.
When the Lakers added Russell Westbrook in exchange for two of their most prominent perimeter defenders last season, Frank Vogel and Rob Pelinka reportedly worked extremely hard to court Kent Bazemore, selling the veteran a significant enough role for him to turn down more money from the Golden State Warriors in the hopes of having a better chance at contention in Los Angeles.
That... obviously didn’t work out, but at that time, it wasn’t difficult to figure out why the Lakers went after Bazemore: He was, on paper, the best two-way guard and 3-D wing available on the limited market for cheap.
Putting this season aside, the reason why Vogel and Pelinka probably wanted Bazemore was because they thought he could provide defensive versatility and shooting (something the front office was looking for) that they knew they wouldn’t get from Westbrook, Malik Monk, and Kendrick Nunn — three of the guards the purple and gold also acquired at the same time as Bazemore.
After all, the 33-year-old came off fresh from a 40.8% 3-point shooting season in 67 games for the Warriors last year. Not only was Bazemore expected to knock down threes, but the Lakers probably also saw him as someone who would fit well in Vogel’s system as he could bring down the ball, pass, defend on or off the ball, run the floor, and even close out games — all of which he did in his stint with the Warriors.
Fast forward eight months later, it’s safe to assume that the Lakers probably regret pining over and chasing Bazemore. He went from playing 1,333 minutes in Golden State as a starter (in the latter part of last season) to being buried on the Lakers bench after only playing 545 minutes this season. Here’s how his underwhelming year went:
How did he play?
Below average standards.
Bazemore started in the Lakers’ first 13 games and did a relatively fine job chasing Steph Curry in the season opener, as the two-time MVP was held to only 21 points in 36 minutes (that’s impressive given that he’s Steph Curry) but that was only one of two decent games Bazemore had this year. His shooting was nowhere to be found from the start. In the 13 games he started, the guard only shot 30.8% on three attempts per game from the three-point area, which wasn’t ideal considering that the Lakers basically needed efficient shooting from the get-go around their clunky original starting lineup.
Then came the arrival of Avery Bradley (seemingly Frank Vogel’s favorite player on earth), who the Lakers acquired in the buyout market a day before their first game and eventually took over Bazemore’s spot in the rotation. Compared to Bazemore, Bradley was the better option (he averaged 6.4 points a game and shot 39% from the 3-point line) for Vogel, serving as the type of on-ball defender that the coach loved to rely heavily upon.
It also didn’t help that the emergence of young guards in Monk and rookie Austin Reaves eventually provided crucial guard production for the Lakers as the season went along. As Bradley, Reaves, Monk, and to an extent Staley Johnson received more playing time, Bazemore saw inconsistent minutes which led him to have an irrelevant role. He went from playing almost 31 minutes on opening night to less than 13 by the 15th game of the season, to 0 for the most part at the end of the year, despite several key Laker rotation pieces in and out of the lineup.
Bazemore could’ve made a case to play more, but it wasn’t like his performance helped him when he did get on the floor. His defense and shooting remained inconsistent while his turnovers, missed layups, and fouls committed (remember that crucial foul he committed on Ja Morant for a game-tying three-pointer early in the season?) were visible flaws that were hard to ignore.
What wasn’t hard to ignore was the cheerful high energy he always embodied on and off the court. Despite being buried on the bench, Bazemore never complained about his demotion, and seemed like one of the few bubbly players on the team. The guard from Old Dominion college mentioned in his exit interview early this month that he did his best to be a source of positivity for the team that really needed it, but sadly, that didn’t end up working out for a veteran-laden squad that seemed like they gave up on each other as the season progressed.
Bazemore finished his second stint in Los Angeles averaging just 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 39 games. This was his worst overall season since his rookie year.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Bazemore inked a one-year, $1.4 million contract with the Lakers last August that will expire when the season ends.
Should he be back?
Given that the Lakers made no use of him for the majority of the season, Bazemore will probably chop wood and carry water somewhere else next year. There hasn’t been any sign from both parties of a potential reunion. Considering that the Lakers roster (with or without a potential Westbrook trade) is already filled with a bunch of guards (including the impending appearance of Kendrick Nunn, who confirmed he’s opting in his contract next season) there is really no point in bringing back Bazemore.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani