Summer League Review: The Case for Kent Bazemore

Now that the Las Vegas Summer League is over, it’s time to take stock of what we learned from the only game action the Golden State Warriors will see until October. Of course, there’s an obligatory caveat about summer league: it’s structure and level of competition don’t make for the best evaluative environment.

Nonetheless, it’s all we’ve got. So in this installment of Summer League Review, we make the case for Kent Bazemore.

Bazemore, a four-year player at Old Dominion, wasn’t selected in this year’s NBA draft. He played in 140 college games, and finished his undergraduate career with averages of 10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and and 45 percent shooting. Pretty pedestrian numbers.

But scoring isn’t Bazemore’s game. The 6’5″ shooting guard with the nearly 7’0″ wingspan’s real value is on the defensive end. In 2011, Bazemore won the Lefty Drisell award as the top defensive player in the entire country. Obviously, he was also named the best defensive player in his conference—a feat he repeated in 2012.

Bazemore’s defensive talents were on full display during the Vegas Summer League, culminating in an amazing seven-block performance against the Chicago Bulls on July 20.

His long arms make him a real threat in the passing lanes, and also allow him to rebound very well for his size.

For a Warrior team that lacks toughness from its wing defenders, Bazemore fills a major need. Unfortunately, it appears as though Charles Jenkins is going to occupy the third guard role on the roster this season.

Here’s why that’s a mistake:

Put simply, Bazemore does things that no other Warrior does. His length and activity make him a nightmare for opposing offensive players. He defends very well on the ball, and is even more effective as a weakside shot-blocker and help defender. He fills a void on the perimeter and would be a major asset in late-game situations against the Western Conference’s elite offensive guards. None of this should be a surprise, given his collegiate track record.

Measured against Jenkins, who is essentially an undersized scoring guard—without any point guard skills whatsoever—Bazemore represents a far greater value to the team. Between Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, Klay Thompson, (hopefully) Brandon Rush and even Harrison Barnes, the Warriors absolutely do not need another scorer in the backcourt. What they need is a defender.

Bazemore would give them that, as he proved by wreaking havoc on everyone from point guards to small forwards in Summer League play. If the Warriors are serious about changing their identity—from a run-and-gun offensive squad to a team with sound defensive principles—Bazemore should be their man.

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