Why Los Angeles Lakers' Kent Bazemore Is the Early Trade Deadline Winner

Micky Shaked@@mickyshakedContributor IIIMarch 5, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kent Bazemore, left, goes up for a dunk as Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

On the surface, the Los Angeles Lakers shipped Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline for $3.5 million in luxury-tax relief. MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore came back as filler that would be gone in the summer.

He may indeed be out of work in the offseason, but Kent Bazemore's play as a Laker has likely made the job search a lot easier on himself. No other player included in a trade last month has made more of his change of scenery in the two weeks since the deadline passed.

To be fair, this year's trade deadline was long on rumors and short on impact transactions. Evan Turner was the biggest name to switch jerseys this year and he went from full-time starter in Philadelphia to a sixth man in Indiana.

Spencer Hawes probably replaced Anderson Varejao in Cleveland's starting lineup—at least until Varejao is fully healthybut the University of Washington man is producing at roughly the same level as before the trade.

Steve Blake? To the bench. Ramon Sessions or Gary Neal? They swapped places without moving the needle much for either Milwaukee or Charlotte.

Bazemore, however, is making an impact in Lakerland.

Once upon a time, the undrafted second-year guard was best known for #Bazemoring, a celebration of teammates' accomplishments rather than his own:

In 105 games as a Warrior, Bazemore was little more than a roster filler averaging five minutes and just over two points.

So excuse everyone who thought Los Angeles was getting nothing more than a competitor to Robert Sacre for Dancing with the Lakers:

Mike D'Antoni had no choice but to play both Bazemore and Brooks in their first games in purple and gold. Jordan Farmar, returning from injury, was the only other guard on the bench to face the Boston Celtics. Bazemore rewarded his coach with a career-high 15 points before moving into the starting lineup and setting career highs in the next two games (17 and 23 points).

The Laker coach had nothing but compliments about Bazemore's first game as a Laker.

Fast forward two weeks and Bazemore is the team's third leading scorer, with 16.2 points per game since arriving and shooting 46.2 percent from three. He reached double-digit points twice in 44 games this season with Golden State.

And for what it's worth, woeful Los Angeles has won half of its games since Bazemore and Brooks came to town.

As B/R's Jonathan Wasserman points out in his recent piece, without a leash Bazemore brings great instincts and activity to the Staples Center:

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. 

Nowhere is that more evident than in this transition dunk against Sacramento. Bazemore's quick break on a long rebound gets him the easy dunk.

But the highlights of his 23-point effort against the Pacers show flashes of a guy who can create his own shot and attack the rim with the ball in his hands.

All is not completely rosy in the Bazemore Experiment, however. Pau Gasol didn't take too kindly to the way D'Antoni has been running the team lately.

The green light Bazemore appeared to have from D'Antoni as he jacked up 19 shots in that loss to Indiana seemed to be part of it.

But then, Bazemore and Wes Johnson hooked up for a game-winning alley-oop from out of bounds to beat Portland 107-106 on Monday.

The play looks all the more impressive after listening to Chris Kaman joke with reporters about Bazemore and Brooks not knowing any inbounds plays for their first game (skip to 0:30).

Bazemore's minimum-salary contract runs out after the season. Los Angeles can hold onto him with a $1.1 million qualifying offer. That deal looks better every day and would allow the team to restart building its bench on the cheap once it sheds over $30 million in salary this summer.

Old Dominion's ninth alum to play in the Association looks to have secured at least one more professional contract, whether it's with the Lakers or elsewhere.


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