On Wednesday, two divisional rivals made a deal when the Los Angeles Lakers sent veteran guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks.
For the Lakers, the trade accomplished the dual goals of putting them closer to getting out of the luxury tax and adding warm bodies that can audition for next year. Bazemore and Brooks are somewhat young (both will be 25 at the start of next season) and have the physical potential to play in the NBA.
The Nets thought enough of Brooks to draft him in the first round less than three years ago, but this will be his fourth team in three seasons having never posted a full season PER above 13.8.
Bazemore has the athleticism and effort to be a capable defender but showed in Golden State that he will need extensive coaching and development to have a ballhandler role at any point in an NBA career.
The big question for the Lakers comes with thinking about this trade in conjunction with the likely (and rumored) Jordan Hill salary dump that could follow on Deadline Day. Simply dumping both players by moving them into exceptions held by other teams would have barely put the Lakers entirely under the luxury tax and eliminated any chance of being hit with the repeater tax for a while assuming nothing crazy happens this summer. It appears at present that adding both Bazemore and Brooks means that the Lakers would have to make one additional move to get firmly under the tax which may lead to a leverage play from some other NBA team if they can perceive the need. Bazemore and Brooks are solid enough fliers but that risk puts the grade down a little.
Grade for the Lakers: B
The Warriors may have corrected their single biggest overall roster flaw for the rest of the season by trading for Blake. During the offseason, management never added a primary ballhandler to play with the bench unit and back up Stephen Curry. That gap left some extra responsibility for Andre Iguodala, which did not help him and the team over the first half of the season. In Blake, Golden State adds a talent that fills that role with the possible benefit of some minutes with Curry similar to Jarrett Jack’s role without any negative locker room consequences.
Additionally, including Bazemore and Brooks in the deal kept the franchise under the luxury tax and may keep them out of the repeater tax until the next CBA. In addition, I have much less concern that the Warriors will overpay Blake this summer (in years or dollars) since he turns 34 next week. He will not be the long-term answer at backup point guard but can be a strong placeholder for the time being.
Seeing Bazemore leave the team is a little bit sad because of his enthusiasm and simply awesome bench celebrations. However, he had the chance to earn a bigger role on this team when Bob Myers did not add a primary ballhandler this summer and he could not capitalize. I will not shed tears for a player who had the chance to earn a spot and could not take it when there are plenty who never even get that. He was fun to have on the team and hopefully will use this as motivation to become the best all-around player he can be and potentially stick around the league a while longer.
Grade for the Warriors: A-