The Sacramento Kings added quite a few players to their roster before this year’s trade deadline (four to be exact), and the player who’s made the most immediate impact has been Kent Bazemore.
The Kings acquired Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan. It wasn’t going to be hard for Ariza’s replacement to be a better fit on the Kings than he was because of how unsuccessful he was in his brief time with the team, but the expectations weren’t particularly high for Bazemore either.
In 43 appearances for the Trail Blazers, Bazemore averaged 7.9 points per game on 34.7% shooting from the field, including 32.7% shooting from behind the arc. With the Kings, those numbers have jumped to 10.3 points per game on 42.6% shooting from the field, including 38.6% shooting from the field, in 21 games. Additionally, the Kings’s defense has been 7.6 better per 100 possessions with Bazemore on the floor this season, which is the second-highest defensive point differential* on the team.
*Alex Len has the highest defensive point differential at -18.4, which puts him in the 100th percentile among players. The sample size is small (147 minutes), but that’s still laughably good.
You don’t need to look at a stat sheet to see Bazemore’s impact, though. The effort he plays with is something the Kings didn’t have in the second unit prior to his arrival, and it played a key role in the Kings’ run before the season was suspended.
He’s been great for the Kings, and apparently he’s enjoyed his time in Sacramento too. So much so that, in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Bazemore said he’d like to stay with the team long-term.
“This is definitely a place that I can see myself play for the next couple of years,” Bazemore said. “With a team with so much promise, I definitely want to be a part of that.”
Bazemore is the final year of a four-year $70 million deal that he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016. The Kings acquired his bird rights in the trade with the Trail Blazers, so they can go over the cap to re-sign him in free agency. However, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox both due new contracts in the offseason and the salary cap expected to take a hit financially, it’s far from a guarantee that the Kings will work out a new deal with the 31-year-old wing.
Hopefully Bazemore’s public comments about wanting to return and his popularity among the fanbase is enough to push the Kings’ front office to keep him around long-term.