Darius Bazley

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Olshey, Bazley, Jokić

Starting Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale appears to be increasing Utah’s ceiling this season by becoming a bigger offensive threat, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“I’m trying to just take what the defense gives me,” O’Neale said of his revamped offense this season with the Jazz. “I’m trying to find ways to get open, whether I am finishing at the basket or kicking it out for the open three. I’m trying to find the open guy. I don’t want the ball to stick in my hands. Everybody thrives off moving the ball, finding the open guy.”

Though O’Neale is still averaging a fairly modest output of 7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.2 APG, along with an excellent 2.2 SPG, Jones contends that O’Neale’s consistent three-point shooting and his improved cutting away from the ball have made him a player that opposing defenses need to respect. This could improve the Jazz’s outlook in the postseason.

“This is what I’ve been trying to train for in the offseason,” O’Neale said of how he hopes to help the Jazz. “I want to do whatever I have to do for us to win. Whether that’s guarding the best player, or knocking down shots. I’m just trying to not be tired and to play the whole game, if I can.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazersinvestigation into the alleged workplace misconduct of longtime president Neil Olshey could last a few weeks, well beyond the duration initially anticipated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Darius Bazley has looked to learn from 30-year-old veteran center Mike Muscala, the team’s oldest player, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “I don’t know if Mike knows this, but I look up to him,” Bazley said. “Just to see Mike and his readiness, whether he’s playing good or playing bad, he always comes in with the same energy and effort, and today he was rewarded for it.”
  • The league continues to gather information on the on-court fight between All-NBA Nuggets center Nikola Jokić and Heat forward Markieff Morris. Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets that a league announcement on an expected suspension period for Jokić could be announced as late as tomorrow. Denver head coach Michael Malone has indicated that an extended absence for Jokić could open the door for more rotational run for reserve big men Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji, per Sean Keeler of the Denver Post“Maybe some guys like Bol Bol (and) Zeke Nnaji that haven’t had a great chance to play yet are going to have a chance to get out there and play rotational minutes,” Malone said. “But we’ll react once we get that news.” Malone also noted that he would feature forwards Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Aaron Gordon in the post more frequently should Jokić be unavailable tomorrow for the club’s next game against the Pacers.

Thunder Exercise Options On Bazley, Pokusevski, Jerome

The Thunder exercised their 2022/23 contract options for forwards Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski and guard Ty Jerome, the team announced in a press release.

There was nothing surprising about the rebuilding club with a good cap situation securing the rights to three young players through next season.

Bazley has appeared in 119 career games, including 67 starts, and was fourth on the team in scoring (13.7 PPG) and second in rebounding (7.2 RPG) last season. He’s due to make approximately $4.265MM next season.

In 48 games with Oklahoma City last season, Pokusevski averaged 7.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.1 APG in 23.5 MPG. He’ll take in approximately $3.26MM in 2022/23.

In 33 games with the Thunder last season after being acquired from the Suns, Jerome averaged 10.7 PPG and 3.6 APG. He’ll received $4.22MM in guaranteed money next season.

Thunder Exercise Options On Gilgeous-Alexander, Bazley, Jerome

The Thunder have exercised the fourth-year contract option on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($5.5MM), plus the third-year options on Darius Bazley ($2.5MM) and Ty Jerome ($2.4MM), the team announced in a press release. All options are for the 2021/22 season.

Gilgeous-Alexander, widely considered to be the club’s best player, averaged 19.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this past season. He also shot an impressive 47% from the floor and 35% from downtown, doing so at just 21 years of age.

Bazley, a 20-year-old forward, was acquired by the team in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was selected No. 23 overall in the event, holding per-game averages of 5.6 points, four rebounds and 18.5 minutes last season.

As for Jerome, he was taken with the very next pick in 2019, starting his career in Philadelphia. Oklahoma City acquired the 23-year-old and others as part of the Chris Paul trade with Phoenix last month.

After surprising onlookers during the 2019/20 season, the Thunder have accelerated their rebuild by acquiring several draft assets and young players. The team is well-positioned to succeed in the future and will have Gilgeous-Alexander, Bazley and Jerome all under contract next season.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Nuggets, Bazley, Jazz

With the 2020 draft currently scheduled for November 18, the Timberwolves are trying to gauge the market value of their three picks this year, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The Wolves currently have the No. 1, No. 17, and No. 33 picks.

President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and his staff have been conducting talent appraisals of their own roster to evaluate the appeal of the team’s trade assets.

“It’s not 100 percent accurate by any means,” Rosas said of the process, “but it gives you a good perspective as you look at your roster, as you look at your body of talent on your team and you look at how you value not only the picks that you have currently, but the picks around the league.”

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Mike Singer of The Denver Post examines some of the best trade options for the Nuggets. These include projecting the players and picks necessary for a possible Jrue Holiday deal, and what could be gained from moving up in the 2020 draft. With power forward Paul Millsap, center Mason Plumlee, and combo forward Jerami Grant all entering free agency, the team may also look to shore up its frontcourt with tactical signings.
  • Thunder wing Darius Bazley impressed Jack Reining of Daily Thunder during the playoffs of his 2019/20 rookie season. Bazley’s improved long-range shot selection appeared to greatly benefit his efficiency, and he was better able to take advantage of his physical attributes and timing during the NBA’s Orlando restart.
  • As we previously relayed, the Jazz may be focused on using the No. 23 pick in this year’s draft to improve their defense.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Thunder, Booker, Bazley, Jazz

When the Nuggets rested all five of their starters for the entire fourth quarter in a close loss to the Lakers on Monday night, it was clear that the team was prioritizing health over its playoff seed, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Having been shorthanded throughout the restart, Denver will want to make sure it keeps key players like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap off the injured list with the playoffs around the corner.

Fortunately for the Nuggets, two of their missing rotation players may be nearing a return. As Singer relays (via Twitter), TNT’s Jared Greenberg said on Monday night’s broadcast that the club is hoping to have Gary Harris and Will Barton available on Friday for the last of eight seeding games. Neither player has suited up so far this summer.

Meanwhile, rookie Vlatko Cancar, who is recovering from a foot fracture, has arrived at the Walt Disney World campus and is in quarantine, according to Singer (Twitter link). Although Cancar isn’t expected to play, the Nuggets can now say their entire team is in Orlando, Singer notes.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest…

  • Former Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who drafted Devin Booker with the No. 13 pick in 2015, tells Chris Mannix of SI.com that the Thunder tried to trade up one spot from No. 14 in what he believes was an effort to nab Booker themselves. “You could kind of hear or sense the air come out of the (OKC) room,” McDonough said of the moment when he told the Thunder he was drafting Booker. “You could tell they wanted him.”
  • Although he has been part of the Thunder‘s rotation for most of his rookie season, Darius Bazley has received a bump in minutes this summer and has responded well, with his first career double-double (22 points, 10 rebounds) on Monday. Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com notes that Bazley’s play in the restart bodes well for his long-term potential, while Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman points to the 20-year-old’s shot selection as a key reason for his breakout.
  • Like Denver, the Jazz are prioritizing staying healthy and developing their bench players as the postseason nears, says Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Miye Oni, Jarrell Brantley, and Rayjon Tucker are among the beneficiaries, playing at least 23 minutes apiece on Monday vs. Dallas.

Thunder Notes: Roberson, Dort, Ferguson, Bazley

Thunder forward Andre Roberson continues to make progress in his attempted comeback, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman. Roberson was one of the NBA’s top perimeter defenders before suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee in January of 2018, then an avulsion fracture later that year. Head coach Billy Donovan offered an encouraging update as Roberson tries to return to action for the first time in 30 months.

“He’s doing great,” Donovan said. “I think he’s gaining confidence. I think he’s got confidence in where he’s at physically. I think he’s trying to gain confidence right now in terms of being out from playing competitive basketball for two years.”

The injury has kept Roberson sidelined for almost the entirety of the three-year, $30MM contract he signed in 2017. He is earning $10.74MM this season and a strong performance could make him an intriguing name on this year’s free agent market.

There’s more on the Thunder:

  • Luguentz Dort was effective during his time as a starter, but there’s no guarantee he will keep that role in Orlando, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Dort began the year as a two-way player, but seized an opportunity when Terrance Ferguson missed eight games in January for personal reasons. Dort impressed OKC’s coaches with his defense and started the final 21 games before the shutdown. Dort, Ferguson and Roberson are all candidates for the starting wing spot. “Lu’s done a really good job,” Donovan said. “For me to sit here and say that he’s starting when we get back to playing, I wouldn’t say that. I’m really trying to be open-minded to let these guys play and compete and find out where they’re all at and how well they’re playing with one another.”
  • No Thunder player is enjoying his time at Disney World more than 20-year-old Darius Bazley, Mussatto writes in a separate story. Part of Bazley’s excitement comes from being fully healed after missing the final 11 games before the break with a bone bruise in his right knee.
  • Donovan said his younger players in particular did a great job of staying in shape during the hiatus, telling Paris Lawson of NBA.com that Dort, Ferguson, Bazley and Hamidou Diallo look different than when he last saw them in March. “You can see a physical difference I think when you’re dealing with young players that are 19, 20, 21 years old,” Donovan said. “Their maturation and how much they can develop through four, five or six months can be really amazing.”

Thunder Notes: Bazley, Donovan, P. Johnson

Despite being one of the youngest players on an NBA roster in 2019/20, Darius Bazley played a regular rotation role for the Thunder for most of his rookie season, logging 17.2 minutes per contest in 53 games. Although Bazley showed flashes of upside this season, particularly when he made use of his length and athleticism on defense, scouts who spoke to Erik Horne of The Athletic believe he still has a ways to go before realizing his potential.

“He’s got a lot of growing to do,” one Eastern Conference scout told Horne. “He’s athletic. Still really raw.”

As Horne notes, the Thunder traded down from No. 21 to No. 23 to draft Bazley, passing on the opportunity to select Brandon Clarke, who went to Memphis with that 21st overall pick. While Clarke certainly had the better rookie season of the two players, he’s nearly four full years older than Bazley, so the Thunder are still hoping they made the right call for the long term.

Here’s more out of Oklahoma City:

  • With the Thunder seemingly headed for a rebuild and Billy Donovan entering the final year of his contract in 2019/20, there were signs that a coaching change could be around the corner. However, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes, Donovan flipped the script based on the great job he did in OKC this season. While Donovan hasn’t received an extension yet, GM Sam Presti said in April that he expects to have that discussion soon.
  • Thunder pro evaluation coordinator Paul Johnson interviewed on Monday for the general manager role with the NBA G League’s new Mexico City franchise, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Johnson previously served as a referee operations analyst for the NBA.
  • In case you missed it, Thunder owner Clay Bennett was among those on last Friday’s Board of Governors call who spoke out in favor of including as many teams – and particularly small-market franchises – as possible when the NBA resumes play.

And-Ones: Anthony, Thibodeau, R. Paul, No. 1 Picks

Former NBA big man Joel Anthony has been hired by the Hamilton Honey Badgers, a Canadian team, as a player consultant, the club announced in a press release. Anthony, a Canadian himself, appeared in nearly 500 regular season NBA games from 2008-17, winning a pair of titles with Miami.

“Joel Anthony brings extensive playing experience at the highest level of basketball that will help in the development of our players this season,” Honey Badgers general manager Jermaine Anderson said in a statement. “… He has learned the game under the guidance of coaches such as Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Brad Stevens, and Stan Van Gundy. He has a lot to offer our players, coaches, and staff.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Appearing on The Woj Pod this week with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, veteran NBA head coach Tom Thibodeau talked about what he has learned since being let go by the Timberwolves, addressing load management, the increased size of coaching staffs, and more. Ian Begley of SNY.tv shares a few of highlights from Thibodeau, who is expected to be a candidate for the Knicks‘ job and others later this year.
  • With Klutch Sports branching out beyond basketball to represent football and baseball stars as well, agent Rich Paul spoke to Joe Vardon of The Athletic about that transition. The conversation also touched on several other topics, including whether or not Paul would have advised Darius Bazley to play in the G League if the NBAGL’s professional path had looked two years ago like it does now.
  • With his usual NBA power rankings column on hiatus, Zach Harper of The Athletic tries his hand at ranking all 70 first overall picks in NBA history, from the best (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James) to the worst (LaRue Martin, Gene Melchiorre, and Anthony Bennett).

Northwest Notes: Bazley, Nuggets, Porter, Wolves

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley, who was ruled out for four-to-six weeks on February 10 due to a bone bruise in his knee, is likely healthy now, though the team hasn’t confirmed that, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.

As Tramel notes, however, it’s not clear whether Bazley would see much action for the Thunder this summer if the season resumes, whether or not he’s healthy. The 19-year-old forward was a regular rotation player for Oklahoma City before his injury, averaging 17.2 MPG in 53 contests, but Abdel Nader and – to a lesser extent – Hamidou Diallo played well in Bazley’s absence. With OKC likely shifting into postseason mode if and when play resumes, Tramel wonders if there will be room in the rotation for Bazley.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Colorado Governor Jared Polis told Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic in an interview this week that he intends to give the green light to sports leagues to play games (without fans) in the state once they’re ready to do so. Polis’ comments primarily focus on MLB’s Rockies and NFL’s Broncos, since the Nuggets are extremely unlikely to play games at their home arena before 2020/21. Still, it’s a promising sign for next season for Colorado’s lone NBA franchise.
  • After missing the entire 2018/19 season, Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. flashed some tantalizing potential during his de facto rookie year. With the help of former NBA team executive Seth Partnow, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic digs into Porter’s performance and explores what advanced data says about his play.
  • In his latest mailbag, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune examines the job Gersson Rosas has done as the Timberwolves‘ president of basketball operations and discusses the team’s draft plans, among other topics.

Darius Bazley Out At Least 4-6 Weeks With Knee Injury

Rookie Thunder power forward Darius Bazley has suffered a right knee bone bruise and will be re-evaluated by the club in four to six weeks, according to ESPN’s Royce Young (Twitter link).

Bazley left the Thunder’s Saturday night tilt against the Celtics with the injury. Drafted with the 23rd pick in 2019, the 6’8″ bench player has logged time in 53 games for Oklahoma City, averaging 4.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 0.7 BPG.

The Thunder big man famously opted to forgo a year of college eligibility after graduating high school in 2018. He instead agreed to a three-month, $1MM New Balance internship before declaring for the draft in 2019.