NBA PM: Time For Kent Bazemore to Get Paid

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Time For Kent Bazemore to Get Paid

In life, individual success is usually determined by how well someone maximizes their opportunity when given a chance to shine. Some rise to the occasion, others crumble under increased the pressure. That’s life.

Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore fits into the former category. The fourth-year player was thrust into the Hawks’ starting lineup when forward DeMarre Carroll took his talents to Toronto last summer. The Hawks had to make a choice, for financial reasons, to either re-sign All-Star forward Paul Millsap or Carroll. The team opted for the All-Star talent, naturally, and the Raptors received a player coming off two breakout campaigns in Atlanta.

But Carroll’s departure left Atlanta with a huge void on the wing. Carroll was the team’s best individual defender and an integral part of their perimeter defense strategy. Most believed the Hawks would have to look externally to fill the small forward vacancy, but the franchise opted to take a chance on letting Bazemore fill the starting role.

Bazemore responded to the challenge, posting averages of 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 75 appearances. The forward also connected on 109 three-point field goals at a 36 percent clip.

Transitioning into the playoffs, Bazemore posted averages of 14 points and seven rebounds in the team’s elimination of the Boston Celtics in the first round. Bazemore, on the Hawks’ books for just $2 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It goes without saying that Bazemore will be in high demand, especially with the salary cap expected to rise exponentially.

The Hawks will enter the summer in a similar situation, but with a bit more financial flexibility. All-Star center Al Horford is also headed to unrestricted free agency and remains the team’s top priority to re-sign. The Hawks could have upwards of $30 million in cap space this summer, so there is the flexibility there to re-sign both Bazemore and Horford that wasn’t there for Carroll and Millsap last summer.

Atlanta now faces the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Cavaliers viciously swept the Hawks last season, so there is a revenge angle for the franchise. But from an individual standpoint, Bazemore gets to go toe to toe with four-time league MVP LeBron James.

James demolished the Hawks in the Conference Finals last season to the tune of 30.3 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game. No one is expecting Bazemore to completely shut down arguably the best player in the game today, but if he’s able to hold his own, it would solidify what most already believe is a foregone conclusion: a huge payday is looming come July.

Evan Turner Open to Returning to Boston

In the grand scheme of things, the Boston Celtics are undoubtedly a team on the rise. But for the moment, they are a squad coming off back-to-back first round playoff eliminations. Most of the players in Boston’s nightly rotation are contractually locked in for next season.

However, forward Evan Turner is headed to unrestricted free agency. While the Celtics are projected to have anywhere between $14 million to $50 million in cap space, the majority of teams around the league will have room to maneuver financially as well.

For the time being, Turner is saying he’d like to stay but readily admits there are a lot of things that will transpire between now and July.

“I really don’t know,” Turner said, according to Mike Petraglia of WEEI. “I would love to come back, but at the same time, a lot of things, a lot of variables that are going to occur and things like that that I can’t control. Whenever July hits, we’ll talk about it.”

Turner, a former No. 2 overall pick, is looking for fit in his future destination after playing a variety of roles since entering the league.

“Just fit, obviously,” Turner said. “I want to get a decent amount of money, you know what I’m saying? But at the same time the fit is going to be huge and the opportunity to play on a winning team. I have played on [expletive] teams a couple times and it’s not fun. But obviously the fit, the opportunity to play, and the opportunity to progress and win.

“I love [Boston], obviously. It’s the best place to play. You go out to a lot of places or organizations, but this is a true franchise. So to be able to play at the Garden and walk past Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn, things like that, it’s been real. I definitely am glad to say I was able to play here, and hopefully I get more chances.”

Turner averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 81 contests this season. The veteran averaged 13.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists in Boston’s first-round elimination loss to the Atlanta Hawks.