The Atlanta Hawks will likely trade veteran wing Kent Bazemore at some point, but they should wait for his production to improve.
As expected, the 2018-19 Atlanta Hawks aren’t very good. The team sits at 3-10 with an identical Pythagorean record, which means they haven’t been the victims of bad luck in close games. They’re just bad.
Among the other lowlights: Per Basketball-Reference, they are 29th in offensive rating, 24th in defensive rating, 23rd in 3-point field goal percentage, 29th in turnovers per game and 27th in opponent 3-point percentage. Their rookie backcourt has looked, well, like a rookie backcourt. Only two of their five-man lineups that have logged at least 10 minutes this year have a positive net rating.
Thus far, only half of Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk’s “turn the team into the Golden State Warriors” plan has worked. Atlanta runs the fastest pace in the league and has no problem moving the ball around, ranking fourth in passes and potential assists, per NBA.com.
The real issues come when it’s time to cash in on that ball movement. Atlanta ranks 26th in open 3s and 19th in wide open 3s, per NBA.com. With numbers this bad, it’s clear that the Hawks’ struggles are the result of a young team going through growing pains as opposed to the failings of an individual player.
With that being said, potential trade candidate and veteran wing Kent Bazemore has been a part of the problem, as he hasn’t been the player that the Hawks have needed him to be so far. Consequently, the Hawks should probably wait for the seven-year combo guard to boost his numbers before exploring deals with other teams.
Bazemore entered the regular season with a solid reputation as a “3-and-D” player, but that has taken a bit of a hit early on. Through 13 games, Bazemore is shooting only 32 percent from 3-point range, which is well below the 35 percent league average.
His defensive numbers paint a rosier picture, but they also vary depending on where you go. Bazemore’s 0.4 defensive box plus/minus and his 0.4 defensive win shares present the impression of a solid defender, as does the fact that the Hawks allow 6.1 more points per 100 possessions when he goes to the bench.
However, teams can’t ignore the 0.95 points per possession he allows in the pick-and-roll (through eight games). Nor can they overlook the 46.2 percent of 3s that opponents make against him or the 1.33 points per possession he gives up in isolation plays (again, through eight games).
Measuring defense is always a tricky proposition — especially this early in the season — but the lack of corroboration across the board combined with the shaky 3-point shooting makes Bazemore a question mark, especially when taking his $19.2 million player option for the following season into account.
Ultimately, someone will take a chance on him and if a desperate team comes calling early, the Hawks should definitely listen, especially if they believe that what they’re getting from Bazemore now is his absolute peak.
But in a league where the supply for versatile, athletic players that can defend multiple positions and shoot the 3-ball are scarce, teams will continue to bang on the door for Bazemore until the trade deadline in February.
Teams like the New Orleans Pelicans or Houston Rockets — who have shown interest in Bazemore previously — are just a couple of potential playoff hopefuls that will likely keep the lines of communication open with Atlanta in regards to Bazemore for the next few months. They’ll likely attribute any of his defensive struggles to the substandard quality of the team, which wouldn’t be unfair. They will also chalk up his 3-point struggles to some bad luck on open (26.3 percent) and wide open (35 percent) looks. But given his current performance, the possible return for the Hawks may not be great.
Frankly, Bazemore’s contract likely means that whatever the Hawks get back won’t be that enticing. They would likely have to take on at least one bad contract for salary-matching purposes and the draft picks they could acquire in a deal likely wouldn’t be that high regardless of when he gets moved.
Atlanta should still wait to see how much it can get for Bazemore. The Hawks have a bit of leverage in the sense that they don’t have to move him — he fits in well with what they do and, again, guys like him are hard to come by. They have the time to ride this out to see if he regains his stroke from deep as the season goes on, or at least until the team is ready to expand Kevin Huerter‘s workload.
Bazemore clearly isn’t going to help the Hawks become a legitimate contender this year; no one on the roster is up to that task right now. But he can be the difference for a playoff hopeful that wants to play into June. All the Hawks have to do is wait for that one frantic team to give them an offer that they like, and it doesn’t have to be anytime soon.