Kings 20 questions: Has Kent Bazemore found a home in Sacramento?


Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.

The NBA has a handful of what I like to call self-made men. Players that went late in the draft or not at all, but defied the odds to carve out a niche in the league.

It takes a certain personality to endure disappointment and failures. Many of these players are hardened by trips to the G League or stints playing professionally in Europe or Asia. When they finally get a chance in the NBA, they find ways to stick with more than just talent and ability.

Kent Bazemore of the Kings is one of these rare players who survives the trials and tribulations to earn a living in the league. He’s actually done a lot more than just make a living.

Undrafted out of Old Dominion, the 6-foot-4 wing scrapped his way onto the Golden State Warriors' roster during the 2012-13 season. In July of 2016, he had performed well enough that the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a four-year, $70 million deal. 

Sacramento acquired the veteran, along with Anthony Tolliver, in a February trade for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel. Bazemore proved to be a missing link for the Kings as they rattled off a 13-8 record in the 21 games since the swap.

With the season on hiatus, it’s a good chance to look at how Bazemore fits with the Kings and whether he’ll return for more once basketball resumes.

Nuts and Bolts

Bazemore is at the tail end of one of the richest deals in NBA history for an undrafted player. He’s making $19.3 million this season and when the offseason eventually begins, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. 

At 30 years old, Bazemore has plenty of basketball left in the tank. He’s proven to be a defensive disruptor and he has the ability to get hot on the offensive end as well. 

He won’t make $19.3 million a season on his next contract, but there is a good chance he gets another 2-3 year deal with a starting salary of $8-10 million per season.

Why he stays

This was the type of player the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Ariza last summer. Ariza had a personal issue that kept him away from the Kings for stints early in the season and he never really found his voice with the team when he was available.

Bazemore walked in the door, called a team meeting and began taking ownership of his role as a veteran leader behind the scenes. 

This doesn’t work everywhere, especially for a mid-season acquisition, but Bazemore was the right personality at the right time for a Kings team that had lost a bit of its confidence.

Bazemore will have options, but he flourished with Sacramento and seemed to fit in with the personality of the team. When asked about the potential to stick around past the season, Bazemore made his position clear. 

“I know this is a good place for me because when I first got here, a couple of games in, I’m like, ‘man, if I would have started the season here...’” Bazemore told NBC Sports California late in the year. “When stuff like that creeps into your mind, you feel like it’s a good place. The vibe has been great, I love coming to work and I enjoy the people here. For sure man, it checks all the boxes.”

On the court, Bazemore was a breath of fresh air for Sacramento. His energy and defense made a tremendous difference. He also found his shooting stroke in Sacramento, knocking down 38.6 percent from long range in the Kings’ run and gun offense.

Eight seasons into his career, Bazemore knows who and what he is as a player. He understands his role and his Kings teammates embraced him both on and off the court as well.

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Why he leaves

Money might come into play, especially with the Kings’ current roster makeup and their focus on retaining Bogdan Bogdanovic, while extending De’Aaron Fox this summer.

Bazemore won’t get another $70 million in salary, but he will still cost. Can the Kings afford another mid-level exemption level contract? Will the market drive his rate up? These are issues that will take time to work out. 

Sacramento also has a stack of players that can play Bazemore’s position, although they can’t really fit his role. Bogdanovic can play both the two and the three and Buddy Hield needs major minutes as well. 

The Kings also have a young player in Justin James that may eventually develop into a similar type of player as Bazemore. He has the length and athleticism, although he will need more time to reach his potential. James might make a good understudy to Bazemore for a season or two.

Lastly, at 30 years old, Bazemore has made a lot of money and his style of play can fit in with just about any group. Is there a sure-fire playoff team that could come calling with promises of championship runs, albeit at a discounted rate? 

[RELATED: Kent Bazemore quickly became fan favorite in short audition with Kings]


Bazemore loves to golf and he loves the California sunshine. While Sacramento may not have been on his radar before, he instantly fit in with the team and felt appreciated. 

There will be other opportunities, but for at least the next two or three seasons, Bazemore and the Kings seem like a really good fit. The Kings could probably work a three-year, $21-27 million contract into their budget and this is the type of player and personality they need. 

It’s early and there is an incredible amount of uncertainty moving forward with the league, but signs point to Bazemore sticking around past the 2019-20 campaign. 

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