How Kent Bazemore and Lamar Patterson Have Been the Keys to the Hawks’ Early Success

Bazemore!

We’re officially one week into the NBA season! Oh, how nice it is to have basketball back in our lives! We’ve gotten our first glimpse at the teams we’ve been yearning to see for the past three months and received some not-so-definitive answers to our offseason questions. The team I, and many others, have been most longing to see is the Atlanta Hawks. How would they respond after winning 60 games but being swept in the Conference Finals? Who will make up for the loss of DeMarre Carroll? Will Tiago Splitter and Edy Tavares really provide a significant improvement in rim protection? Is Tim Hardaway Jr. still on the team?[1] Is anything I said in my Hawks season preview correct? Well, those questions likely won’t be answered for another month or so. The Hawks are only six games into their season, so it’s way to early to start drawing conclusions about anything, and individual and team statistics don’t really tell us anything just yet.

Just know this: the Hawks are 5-1; Jeff Teague has been the offensive catalyst we all expect him to be; Paul Millsap and Al Horford have shown their versatility on both ends of the floor; Dennis Schröder continues to do Dennis Schröder things. Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha both look like they’ll be on minutes restrictions until they fully recover from their injuries and return to form.[2] These are all things we expected to happen. The surprise of the season so far has been the play Atlanta has gotten from its other two wings: Lamar Patterson and Kent Bazemore.

Here’s a fun stat: Lamar Patterson and Kent Bazemore have played a combined 48 percent of the minutes at the wing spots for Atlanta this season.[3] With Korver and Sefolosha playing limited minutes and Hardaway superglued to the bench, Patterson and Bazemore have gotten ample opportunity to stand out, and they’ve made the most of their chances.

Bazemore became the Hawks’ de facto starting small forward after Carroll left and it became clear that Sefolosha wouldn’t be at a hundred percent to start the season. Now, he looks like he belongs as a legitimate NBA starter. Despite being undersized for a small forward, Bazemore is averaging 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 27.5 minutes per game and shooting 57.9 percent from deep (100% from the corners!). He’s attacking the rim with authority, defending at a high level, and, most importantly, playing with sky-high confidence, giving Atlanta an energetic, athletic element of surprise to its lineup. Bazemore’s defense always been his calling card, and with few healthy, defensive-minded wings, Bazemore has been tasked with locking down the other team’s best wing scorer on a nightly basis, and he’s done a decent job. Sefolosha’s return to 100 percent should allow Bazemore to play the two more often, a position he’s more suited for, but even when that happens, Bazemore will likely continue to start until he gives Coach Bud a reason to bring him off the bench.

As surprising as Bazemore’s early surge has been, Lamar Patterson has been just as surprising. Patterson’s play in training camp and the preseason earned him the final spot on the Hawks’ roster. The first-year wing has frequently been the first or second guy off Mike Budenholzer’s bench and, like Bazemore, provided high-level defense and solid three point shooting. As Korver and Sefolosha have become more ready for heavier minutes, Patterson’s minutes have decreased, but he remains a valuable option off the bench due to his versatility. Despite his early contributions, Patterson is still unproven and could easily see his minutes continue to slip. We’ll have to wait and see if he remains a significant rotation piece or if he was just a flash in the pan.

Whether these two can maintain such a high level of play and earn major minutes throughout the season remains to be seen, but they’ve undoubtedly been key factors in getting the Hawks off to such a strong start; Atlanta fans can rest assured that the Hawks have solid depth at the wing positions.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

 

[1] Hardaway has yet to appear in a game after the Hawks passed on multiple first-round picks to acquire him on draft night. Make of that what you will.

[2] Both players have sat out one game in each of the team’s first two back-to-backs of the season. Korver is coming off offseason wrist and ankle surgeries and Sefolosha is still recovering from a fractured tibia.

[3] Wing players are shooting guards and small forwards (2s and 3s). Basically, non-point guards and non-post players.

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