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Bazemore, Blazers Have Failed to Click

Mired in inefficiency, Kent Bazemore’s first year with the Trail Blazers has been less than ideal.

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Kent Bazemore has yet to find his footing with the Trail Blazers. The 30-year-old wing, who was shipped to Portland in exchange for Evan Turner, has struggled to produce efficiently as a regular rotational player. Those struggles have saddled the Blazers with an even larger burden as coach Terry Stotts has turned to Bazemore to occupy the spot created by Rodney Hood’s season-ending Achilles injury.

Since Hood’s departure, the Blazers have recorded a 7-10 record. That winning percentage is on par with Portland’s season-long woes, but it is important to note that stretch occurred during a much-friendlier section of the schedule. Regardless of his promotion to the starting lineup, Bazemore’s numbers have continued to stagnate.

A combination of an awkward fit on offense and an increased role on defense has led to a career-low year in several categories for the former Hawks wing. Defensively, Bazemore is often tasked with overcoming a size disadvantage. Outside of individual matchups, the Blazers’ porous defense applies pressure to the forward position. Those two aspects have led to Bazemore’s 4.6 percent foul rate, a rate that places him in the 12th percentile at his position group (per Cleaning The Glass).

Offensively, Bazemore’s struggles are easily recognized. His three-point percentage has slightly recovered from last season’s dismal 32 percent rate. Inside the arc is a much different story. Bazemore is shooting an abysmal 36.9 percent on two-point attempts, placing him in the fifth percentile at his position group (per CTG).

Working alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, forwards inside Portland’s offense are tasked with keeping opponents honest from the perimeter and attacking downhill when possible. Bazemore’s efficiency in both areas is underwhelming. On corner three-pointers, he is converting 31 percent of his attempts. At the rim, Bazemore is shooting 41 percent. On top of those less-than-ideal shooting numbers is a unfavorable turnover rate of 14.7 percent.

Gauging the impact of a single injury that the Blazers have endured is tough to estimate. Injury absences have an accumulative impact on team-wide struggles, but the drop off from Hood to Bazemore is pronounced.

2019-20 Percentages

Player FG% eFG% Corner 3 % Rim %
Player FG% eFG% Corner 3 % Rim %
Kent Bazemore 34.8 43.2 31 41
Rodney Hood 50.6 60.7 55 80

Regardless of reports that suggested Bazemore was added as an insurance policy for Hood’s free agency, a straight across comparison between a starter and reserve could appear unfair. When looking at Bazemore’s predecessors, Maurice Harkless and Turner present a mixed bag of comparisons.

Harkless, who was maligned for his inefficient offense, recorded a comparatively better effective field goal percentage of 53 in his final year with Portland. Like Bazemore, Harkless struggled with fouls.

Turner, the player Bazemore was exchanged for, was a non-threat from beyond the arc that also struggled with turnovers (a grain of salt should apply when factoring in Turner’s duties as a ball handler). Outside of those well-documented struggles, Turner’s foul percentage from last season was significantly lower than Bazemore’s rate (2.8 percent, 64th percentile at his position per CTG). Offensively, Turner finished 62 percent of his shots at the rim, a stark difference from Bazemore’s rate of 41 percent.

Due to the construction of the current roster, the Blazers have few options to call on if Bazemore’s struggles persist. Barring a trade, a trio of unheralded players comprise Portland’s options. Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little and Jaylen Hoard are the likely frontrunners to undertake a larger role if the Blazers decide to change course.