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Celtics Free Agent Focus: Kent Bazemore

Danny Ainge made a pick push for Kent Bazemore when he was on the market, but he ultimately signed with Atlanta. Bazemore has been a thorn in the Celtics side, and with him back on the market, Danny Ainge will surely try to sign Bazemore again. Let's see if he's successful the second time around.

Following the 2013-14 season, Kent Bazemore was a free agent, and after averaging 13 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game with the Lakers, it was a perfect time for Bazemore to hit the market. Boston made a hard push for Bazemore at the time because he was the exact type of player they needed- a scorer that could do more than just score. Ainge did all he could to land the former Old Dominion star, but Bazemore chose to sign with the Atlanta Hawks instead, a move that in hindsight was the better one for Bazemore, although it did require some patience on his part. 

Bazemore, 26, played his high school years at Bertie High School in Windsor, North Carolina. He wasn't heavily recruited, but all you need is one school to want you, and that is exactly what happened to Bazemore when Old Dominion offered him a full scholarship. After visiting the school in October of 2006, Bazemore signed his letter of intent in February of 2007, and then he officially enrolled in June of that same year. Bazemore was redshirted in 2007-08 as a true freshman, but he was given every opportunity to become a contributor during the 08-09 season. In 35 games, he averaged 4.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and he also started nine games. He wasn't getting a lot of minutes, but he was getting enough to make a mark on each game.

His sophomore year, he was given more minutes, and with the added playing time came almost double the production. In 26.7 minutes per game, Bazemore averaged 8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. He continued to do a little bit of everything, and he also shot 49% from the field. As a junior, Bazemore made another large statistical leap and he was also voted as the CAA Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. Old Dominion won the conference and made it back to the NCAA Tournament, but they were beat by Brad Stevens and his Butler Bulldogs. Bazemore was also recognized nationally for his defense, winning the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year. 

Bazemore's senior year proved he was still improving as a player. He averaged just over 31 minutes per game, up just a minute from his junior year, but his offense was considerably better and his defensive skills continued to shine through. Bazemore averaged 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. He was once again named the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, but Old Dominion wasn't able to return to the NCAA Tournament as they finished the season 22-14. It was a bittersweet season for Bazemore, who had his best statistical season but couldn't finish his career in the NCAA Tournament, the goal of any senior in Division One college basketball. 

Bazemore was projected as a second round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, but he wasn't selected and was signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and added to their Orlando Summer League team before being cut and then joining the Golden State Warriors Summer League team in Las Vegas. Golden State liked what they saw in the Vegas Summer League and signed him to a two-year deal. During his rookie season with the Warriors, he appeared in 61 games, but he averaged only 4.4 minutes per night. He was consistently back-and-forth between Golden State and Santa Cruz, spending a significant amount of time in the D-League trying to improve and get used to the speed of the pro game.

Bazemore appeared in 44 games during the 2013-14 season with the Warriors before they traded him to the Lakers in a deal for point guard Steve Blake. The trade turned out to be the best thing for Bazemore as he wasn't buried on the Golden State bench anymore. Bazemore appeared in 23 games with the Lakers, starting 15, and he averaged 28 minutes per night, so the Lakers gave him a chance to show what he could do. His play resembled his play from ODU- 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Bazemore was a free agent, but the Lakers apparently weren't interested, which in hindsight was clearly a mistake.

As we discussed earlier, Bazemore had options during free agency in 2014, but he chose the Atlanta Hawks. His first season in Atlanta was not great from a statistical standpoint, but he was part of a good team that made a little noise in playoffs. He appeared in 75 games, starting 10, and he averaged just under 18 minutes per game. Bazemore put up 5.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 0.7 steals per game. 

With DeMarre Carroll signing a huge deal in Toronto, Bazemore was forced to move to small forward, but it turned into a good thing for the Hawks as the transition went smoothly, although he doesn't provide the same size Carroll did. Bazemore appeared in 75 games, starting 68, and he averaged 27.8 minutes per night. He averaged 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks, once again showing his all around game. He shot the ball well too, shooting 44% overall and 36% from three on 305 attempts. 

Bazemore will turn 27 on July 1st, so he is entering his prime at a time when the salary cap is about to explode. Atlanta may re-sign him, but there's a chance he gets a huge offer elsewhere, and Atlanta proved last season that they will not overpay for a player if they deem the player not worthy, which can be a gamble at times, but it keeps them in play when true stars become available.

Boston will surely reach out to Bazemore's agent to get an idea what he's thinking as far as contract parameters, but he's probably going to demand more than the Celtics want to give. If they were to handcuff themselves with a $10-million per/year deal for a player that just isn't worth it, it will be Jeff Green all over again, and it may cost them a true game-changing player on the trade market or in free agency next summer. If Bazemore doesn't get a crazy offer and is open to what he's actually worth, Boston could be in play, but there are so many different factors in play right now it's hard to predict if he's targeted by Ainge again. That should be more clear after Thursday night.

College Statistics Provided by Sports-Reference.com/Kent Bazemore

NBA Statistics Provided by Basketball-Reference.com/Kent Bazemore 

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