Top 2019 draft prospect Darius Bazley has opted not to play in the G League during the 2018/19 season after all, he tells Shams Charania of The Athletic. Instead of playing professionally, Bazley will take the year to train and prepare for the next stage of his career.
Bazley, a 6’9″ forward who had originally planned to play with Syracuse in 2018/19, decommitted from the college program in March and announced his intentions to spend a season in the G League before becoming draft-eligible in 2019. However, he no longer considers it necessary to play in the NBAGL after having talked it over with his “group.”
“It’s mainly me talking to [agent] Rich [Paul], he knows so much, and whenever he speaks my ears perk up,” Bazley told Charania. “When Miles [Bridges] was in Cleveland for his predraft workouts, whenever he got a chance to work out in front of NBA teams, I was working out in the gym, too. So that played a part in it, me playing well in those workouts for us to say there’s no upside in the G League. If you play well, it’s expected. If you don’t play well, you’re not NBA-ready. That’s what they’ll say. For me, working out and preparing is the best route.”
If he had signed a G League contract, Bazley would have been eligible for the league’s 2018 draft, and likely would’ve been the first overall pick, meaning he would have had little control over whether or not he landed with one of the NBAGL’s better developmental programs. The 18-year-old touched on that issue – and explained his concerns about the G League in general – when he spoke to Charania about his decision.
“The G League is the only league where winning might not be everything,” Bazley said. “Development is the most important aspect, but guys are playing for the team and at the same time trying to play for themselves. That’s not the type of guy I am. For me in those settings to just get mine, I’ve never been brought up that way. I feel basketball is a team sport and everybody is supposed to eat. In the G League, that’s not the way it is. Everyone is trying to get an opportunity to go to the NBA.”
Bazley projects as a first-round pick – and potentially a lottery selection – in next year’s NBA draft. However, his decision to pass on the G League comes after an appearance at the Nike Basketball Academy earlier this month that was described by some experts and scouts as underwhelming.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony suggested at the time that there was speculation among scouts at the event that Bazley could back out of his G League plans and take the Mitchell Robinson route — the Knicks big man, a second-round pick in June, sat out the 2017/18 season before becoming draft-eligible this spring.
Meanwhile, Bazley’s decision shows that the G League still has some work to do in order to be viewed as a genuinely appealing alternative for top prospects who are looking for other options outside of the NCAA.
“This shows the impact of the rules now that have taken away the flexibility for a five-star prospect to enter the league,” one NBA executive said to Charania. “Each team in the G League is not the same in terms of resources and development.”