Before last season, Kent Bazemore, undrafted out of Old Dominion University, signed a two-year minimum salary contract with the Warriors. The second year of that contract, for the 2013-14 season, was fully unguaranteed. Because Bazemore was not waived within two days of the end of the Warriors’ season, he was guaranteed $25,000.
Before the Andre Iguodala signing was turned into a sign and trade, it appeared possible, though unlikely, that the Warriors would waive Bazemore (along with Scott Machado, Dwayne Jones, and Kevin Murphy, who were in fact waived) to clear space for the signing and avoid the luxury tax.
With the extra space generated by dumping the contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, the Warriors can comfortably guarantee Bazemore’s contract.
Though the Warriors would have been crazy not to keep Bazemore, illogical actions are not exactly rare in the Warriors managerial history (Six years, $129 million for Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis).
Bazemore clearly has the athleticism to be a valuable NBA player. At 6’5’’ with a 6’11.5” wingspan and good coordination and footspeed, his athleticism is a tool rather than a detriment. However, athleticism does not guarantee a place in the NBA. Time and time again, athleticism does not translate to production. (Somewhere, Anthony Randolph nods, a look of disappointment masking his face. Of course, this is no different from his normal expression)
During last season and in Summer League, Bazemore has shown the skills required to be a functional NBA player. His handle is developed to the point that he can handle standard pressure and, as he showed in summer league, he is now capable of creating off the dribble in the pick and roll.
To be clear, “create” does not necessarily refer to scoring. Bazemore will likely never be a consistent scorer in the half court but he has developed the ability to run a pick and roll and make the proper decision. He poses enough of a threat that the defense is forced to cover him and can dribble sufficiently well that he does not have to make an immediate decision.
There would be no point in the Warriors surrendering an asset with Bazemore’s potential for nothing. However, if the team cannot find him a consistent role this season, he may choose to leave for a greater opportunity as a free agent.
So, what will Bazemore’s role be next season?
With either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson coming off the bench, the Warriors bench wing rotation may be crowded. Draymond Green will likely play several minutes at backup small forward, leaving few wing possessions for Bazemore. Instead, look for Bazemore to establish himself as the backup point guard. While Toney Douglas is an effective NBA player, he may not have the offensive upside of Bazemore, especially if Bazemore can further develop his three point shot.
Bazemore is capable of running the offense and, much like Douglas, he is an impactful defender. Compared to Douglas, he likely has a greater benefit upside for the Warriors. His athletic profile allows him to be a more disruptive help defender, while he has greater potential as an offensive player.
The Warriors wisely retained Bazemore this year, expecting long term rewards that appear increasingly likely.