Best-Case, Worst-Case NBA Career Comparisons for Kent Bazemore

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 3, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kent Bazemore dribbles the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

It's tough not to root for Kent Bazemore, who, after going undrafted in 2012, has caught on with the Los Angeles Lakers and shown that he belongs. 

He's averaging 16.2 points through his first five games in L.A., where he's taken full advantage of Mike D'Antoni's blinding green light.

But throw away the stats and production for a minute—what immediately stands out with Bazemore is his live motor and athleticism. He's active out there, whether he's looking for his shot, cutting through traffic or getting out on the break.

Back at Old Dominion, Bazemore's bread and butter was making plays without the ball. He didn't project as a guy you'd feature in an offense; rather, someone you'd use as high-octane support. 

If he's going to maximize his potential in the NBA, it's going to be in a specific role that plays directly to his strengths. 

And it's a similar one that Lance Stephenson plays for the Indiana Pacers

Stephenson injects his team with life. His skills aren't the most refined, but he's relentless out there. And his game is powered by effort and confidence. When he finds a rhythm, all a sudden his jumper starts falling, offensive rebounds find him and defenders lose him.  

Bazemore lacks Stephenson's strength but shares his aggression. If there's a hole or gap in the defense, they're going to use that quick first step and look to explode right through it. 

Bazemore is pretty much a line-drive player, though we've seen him use the stutter-step and Euro-step dribble on occasion. To reach Stephenson-status, he'll need to continue improving his handle and expanding his shot creativity off the bounce. 

In the half court, Bazemore's core strength centers around his ability to turn the corner and get from the arc to the rim in the most direct route possible. He's got that turbo feature he can activate that allows him to explode off the dribble and past his defenders. 

The open court is where he shines. Bazemore seemingly glides both down the floor and through the air, as he's demonstrated some of that body control that Stephenson uses to finish with following a full-speed drive or break. 

via NBAtv

Bazemore has also flashed some of Stephenson's passing and playmaking skills. He averaged 3.9 assists per 40 minutes as a senior in college—Bazemore always had admirable awareness in terms of knowing how and when to set up teammates.

He's no point guard, but Bazemore has shown he can read plays and make the pass that leads to a bucket or scoring opportunity, whether he's stationary on the wing or on the move within the offense.

via ESPN

Bazemore still plays the game at 100 miles per hour, something that Stephenson did when he first came into the league. Over time, Stephenson has been able to channel his energy and offensive urges, and ultimately convert them into higher-percentage shots, mostly at the rim. 

Defensively, Bazemore plays hard and aggressive. He plays passing lanes, creates turnovers and gets himself tips and deflections. He's not the bully that Stephenson is, but he's capable of pressuring ball-handlers and causing a disruption. 

Take a look at Bazemore playing some baseline-to-baseline defense with the chase-down block as a member of Golden State:

There are obvious differences between Bazemore and Stephenson. And clearly one of them is a lot more accomplished than the other. But they both fall into the same niche. 

For Bazemore, Stephenson is the type of player he should be striving to become. Attacking the rim, crashing the glass, knocking down shots opportunistically and stopping the ball—these are the areas of the game he'll have to own in order to maximize his NBA potential.

"I think he's so active on defense and he's got a chance to be a really good player," D'Antoni told Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan. "He needs to be able to fit in a little bit better, and that will come with film sessions and talking to him in practice. I think he's got a bright future."

Worst-case scenario, Bazemore should still be able to stick somewhere as a reserve, where he can play the role of do-it-all wing—the one who can hold his own in a few phases of the game but can't consistently win the battle in any of them.

I'm talking about guys like Courtney Lee, Alonzo Gee, Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown—wings with no go-to offensive strengths, yet ones who've managed to stick around by making enough plays.

Bazemore has shot well so far in Los Angeles, but shooting consistency was never really considered one of his glowing attributes. He'll also need to work on his in-between game in the mid-range, where his touch and shot selection could use some touching up. 

At this point, Bazemore is realistically only a few games into his career (averaged 4.4 minutes as a rookie and 6.1 in 44 games with the Warriors as a sophomore), and playing under Mike D'Antoni in a throwaway year, it's tough to peg legitimate production versus inflated stat lines.

However, there's no doubt in my mind he's got the game to hang around and make an impact. 

Physically, he has the size, athleticism and skill set to play all over the floor on both sides of the ball. Bazemore will just have to tighten up his game at the offensive end. 

There's plenty of upside and room for him to grow into a dangerous two-way wing. Expect Bazemore to continue putting up numbers and emerge as a value pickup on the free-agent market this summer.