One storyline to watch for the 2018-2019 G-League season is that of Darius Bazley. The 6’8”, 195-pound Power Forward out of Cincinnati, OH is ranked 13th in the class of 2018 per ESPN. A 2018 McDonald’s All-American, Bazley chose to forgo his pledge to Syracuse in favor of going straight into the NBA G-League. He is the first big-time recruit and McDonald’s All-American to do so. Of course, NBA scouts will closely monitor this story, as Bazley is considered a first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Per G-League rules, Bazley is allowed to go straight from high school to the G-League because he is 18 years old. He would need to be 19, or turning 19 in 2018, to have declared for the 2018 NBA draft. Bazley will become a contracted player of the G-League at $35,000, playing on a one-year contract. He will be eligible for the 2018 G-League draft, and he will likely appear at or near the top of the draft.
Because Bazley did not declare for the 2018 NBA Draft in advance of the 2018-2019 G-League/NBA season, he is ineligible for an NBA call up. This rule is in place to ensure that high school don’t use the G-League to directly by-pass the 19-year-old age limit for the NBA draft. As such, Bazley will play all 50 regular season games in the G-League (or as many as his health/team allows).
This is an interesting trend to keep an eye on, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBAPA have discussed lowering the NBA Draft age back down to 18. If that is the case, high school seniors will be able to declare for the NBA Draft upon graduation. Also, the league may need to reconsider the 18-year-old G-League draft rule, as high school players who go undrafted would be able to enter the G-League and earn immediate call-ups to the NBA. These players would be heavily discounted versus a 1st or 2nd Round pick salary.
Bazley wrote about his decision in depth on the Players Tribune:
“In the G League every day, I’m going to be competing with and against NBA talent. I’m going to learn NBA schemes, adopt an NBA practice schedule and generally be in an environment where the main focus of everyone I’m around is competing at an NBA level.” - Darius Bazley
I had a chance to watch Bazley take on New Albany Bulldogs and Romeo Langford this past season. It’s hard to categorize Bazley, as he is a wiry-forward who can handle for his size. He won’t be given full-time point guard responsibilities, but he can start an offensive set off the bounce or the pass. He sees the court well in transition, and rebounds well because of his athleticism. In his offensive arsenal is a variety of pull ups and soft finishes at the rim, but he does need to improve as a shooter. Defensively, he is disruptive because of his length and athleticism, but he needs to add strength as he was bullied around by bigger post players. It should be fascinating to watch his young, developing game in the G-League, as he will face grizzled professional basketball players, many of whom have long vied for the coveted NBA spot many believe he will earn.