You never quite know what you’re going to find at Summer League. Just ask Bob Myers.
A little more than a year ago, a one-time national defensive player of the year sat on the edge of his seat for both rounds of the 2012 NBA Draft, only to reach the end without hearing his name called. This happens all the time in the NBA, as there are only 60 picks in the Draft and far more players from which to choose. Ultimately, some guys always get left out.
But Summer League offers a chance at redemption. A chance to prove all those teams that passed over you wrong. A chance to prove that even a guy from a small collegiate program at Old Dominion has the skills and wherewithal to compete at the highest level of basketball in the world. The opportunity is always there…it’s just a matter of finding out who can take advantage of it. Well, we don’t have to look far to see one of the most recent Summer League success stories. In the span of a year, Kent Bazemore has gone from an undrafted rookie to a rotation player in the NBA, and he’ll be the first to tell you that Summer League is a main reason why.
After going undrafted, Bazemore was eventually offered a spot on the Warriors Summer League team, and he didn’t take long to capitalize on the opportunity. He quickly proved himself a dynamic defensive stopper, with the ability to contribute on the offensive end as well. He dominated almost every individual matchup, and sure enough, wound up securing a roster spot on a team that fell two wins short of the Western Conference Finals this past season. Along the way, Bazemore expanded on the promise he so abundantly displayed in Summer League, increasing his minutes total as the season went on (not to mention his bench celebration antics, for which he is undoubtedly the most talented in the league).
Warriors fans will hate to be reminded of this, but remember when Manu Ginobli hit the back-breaking three-pointer at the end of overtime in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals? Yeah, we know, it still hurts. But we only mention it for a reason. You see, it was only back-breaking because the Warriors had seemed to put themselves in position to steal a playoff game on the road, and if you remember correctly, it was Bazemore who had put them there with a clutch fast break layup. So forgive us for the morose flashback, but appreciate the moment. For Bazemore, that layup encapsulated his long and unexpected journey, and for others around the league, it proved the Warriors weren’t wrong to think they had found a diamond in the rough in Kent.
Fast forward to the ongoing 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, and suddenly Bazemore is in a much different position than that of a year ago. Yes, his undrafted status will never leave him, but he could probably care less at this point. Instead, he’s picked up right where he left off, leading the Dubs’ Summer League squad to an undefeated 4-0 record thus far, and the #1 overall seed in the inaugural Summer League Championship. To nobody’s surprise, Bazemore’s main strength continues to lie on the defensive end. In consecutive games against the Wizards and Kings, Bazemore limited recent lottery picks Otto Porter and Ben McLemore to a combined 21 points on 7-of-25 (28.0%) shooting, and forced numerous turnovers. Sure, you could blame those numbers on bad shooting nights, but that would be doing Bazemore an injustice. Both of those young rookies will be successful players in this league eventually, and their development can only be hastened by competing against a premium defensive competitor the likes of Bazemore. But Kent’s impressiveness hasn’t stopped there. He leads the team in points (18.0), assists (3.0), and rebounds (6.0) per game. Considering he’s put up those numbers on the best team in Summer League thus far, the attention he’s been garnering around the league seems to be quite warranted. Summer League isn’t over yet, and the Warriors’ squad still has a long way to go, but if they end up going deep in the tournament, Bazemore could very well end up in the discussion of Summer League MVP.
Consequently, it would appear as if Bazemore’s spot on the roster for the 2013-14 season is all but guaranteed. However, how he fits into the rotation and at what position is still to be determined. Along with Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have recently acquired two veterans in Marreese Speights and Tony Douglas to help fill out the bench, and it will be interesting to see how the reserve minutes are divided up amongst them.
Bazemore’s unique body (he has a 6’11” wingspan) allows him to effectively match-up against larger and longer two-guards, while his speed and agility make him a possible fit at backup point guard. He has been working on his improved handle throughout Summer League, and has proved more than capable at finding open teammates off of drives to the basket. How he and Douglas (who is also widely regarded as a terrific defender) split up the minutes backing up Stephen Curry remains to be seen, but at this point it can be asserted that there will certainly be no drop-off defensively when the second unit comes on the court. And considering the impressive collection of lethal scorers the Dubs’ now possess, it’s not as if they are expected to be at a dearth for points. That, in general, should allow each of the players to focus on what they do best, rather than feel compelled to carry the burden on their own.
That’s great news for Bazemore, who, while not a star (not yet at least), has proven to his teammates and the coaching staff that focus is not going to be an issue. He’s committed to becoming an effective all-around player, and the Warriors only stand to benefit as a result.
You never know what you’re going to find in Summer League. But if you’re lucky, it might just be a Bazemore.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t worth a draft pick, eh?