Of all the familiar faces brought back this offseason, the addition of Kent Bazemore could pay the most dividends for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Purple and Gold went into free agency with notable voids to fill in the shooting department and defensive end of the court. Fortunately, bringing in prototypical 3-and-D players like Bazemore and Trevor Ariza helped check those boxes.
Most of the attention surrounding the Lakers has been fixed on how the offense will look between the big 3 of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis. However, Bazemore is here to ensure that the defense is not being overlooked.
The 32-year-old has long established himself as a go-to defender on the perimeter. Bazemore acknowledged that his biggest contributions would be on defense, given the amount of elite scorers in the Western Conference.
“Defensively is where I hang my hat,” Bazemore said. “Getting that assignment every night, if you watched the playoffs you see all the younger talent at the guard position. You watch Dame, you watch Devin Booker, you watch Donovan Mitchell, you got Steph, you got so many guys, so many young guards or guys at the guard position that demand a lot of attention from each team. So I’m looking forward to coming in and kind of shutting off that water, waking up every day with that assignment to guard the other team’s best player at the guard position. Obviously we have size, on the wing we have Bron and AD, having Ad at the rim, Dwight Howard at the rim, gives me a chance to be a little bit more aggressive out of the perimeter. They’re obviously changing a little bit of the rules with all the funkiness these offensive guys got away with last year so that will play well in my favor as well. Obviously watching some film on what they’re gonna call, how they’re gonna call it and fit in where I fit in.”
Bazemore’s skill set has made him an early favorite to crack the starting lineup going into the 2021-22 NBA season. His efforts could very well make him the most overlooked addition to the team this offseason.
Not only did Bazemore at a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc last season, his experience guarding some of the best players in the league already makes him an integral part of the rotation. Meanwhile, his recent stint on the West Coast has made him accustomed to defending elite scorers on almost a nightly basis.
Bazemore reflects on matchups with James
The fact that Bazemore is embracing his role on defense hardly comes as any surprise. He made his bones as a defender during his time with the Atlanta Hawks when they were squaring off against LeBron James-led teams in the playoffs nearly every year.
Bazemore is admittedly looking forward to recalling his battles with James during their playoff meetings in 2015 and 2016.
“It’s something I want to do face-to-face, get to sit down maybe during training camp or something, get to talk about it,” Bazemore said. “But I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done for the game of basketball. Even winning the last championship down in the bubble, I was down there and realized how crazy of a grind it was for them to get it done, it showed a lot.”