Despite winning 60 games and finishing first in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks fell apart physically in the postseason. Every member of the starting lineup besides their weakest link, Demarre Carroll, was hampered by an injury of some sort. This is not to take away from Carroll. He was the Hawks best player in the postseason and his defense was a large part of the success the team had throughout the season. However, many forget that Atlanta still had four All-Stars in our lineup last season. Demarre was an impact player, but he is far from irreplaceable. Kent Bazemore has filled that void, and the Hawks still look as good as ever.
Bazemore played his college ball at Old Dominion, where his defensive prowess garnered him national attention. Once Bazemore eased himself into a starting role in his sophomore season, he was elected to the Colonial Athletic Association’s All-Defensive team for three straight seasons, claiming the defensive player of the year award twice in the conference. In 2011, he won the Lefty Driesell Award, which is awarded to the best defender in D-1 basketball. Despite his collegiate success, Bazemore went undrafted. He finally found a home with the Golden State Warriors, where he would spent his rookie season. The team opted to bring him back for another season, but he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would finally get his chance to shine. The Lakers were in the midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but it gave Bazemore his first taste of being an NBA starter. In 23 games (15 starts) with LA, Baze averaged 13.1 points per game and shot a 37% clip from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, his season ended due to a torn tendon in his right foot.
This injury came in April, and I don’t think many Hawks fans realize he was still feeling the effects of the injury throughout the Hawks’ historic 2014-15 campaign. Bazemore is now healthy, and in the second season of Coach Bud’s system. any players on the team have made it clear that the longer they stay in a Hawks uniform, the more comfortable they get within the system. Kent Bazemore is taking advantage of that opportunity. He is offering similar production to Carroll, and one can make the argument that with him emulating this production and Tiago Splitter being brought in to help on the boards, that the Hawks are better off this season.
Personally, I thought Sefolosha would be the starter this season, but he is coming off a serious injury and while he is a good defender and shooter himself, Bazemore offers more explosiveness. He has proved that he’s more than a spark plug off the bench, as he has held his own as a starter. His offensive game has been a bit inconsistent, but that can be expected with the Hawks’ balanced scoring attack. He set his career high with 25 points in the team’s 114-99 victory over the Wizards last weekend.
Demarre Carroll’s Player Efficiency Rating this season? 9.14. Bazemore’s? 17.37. Carroll’s split was a much higher 15.9 last season. This should be a testament to how incredible and efficient Coach Bud’s system truly is. While a small smaple size, Bazemore has actually performed better than Carroll did last season. With the financial resources allocated to bring in Tiago Splitter in to replace Pero Antic, I truly think the Hawks better team on the court this season. Bazemore is the new beneficiary of the Hawks’ success, now all he has to do is maintain his production.