Darius Bazley

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.

Northwest Notes: Carmelo, Presti, Paul, Bazley, Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony made his long-awaited return to the hardwood by signing a contract with the Trail Blazers last month, but the 10-time NBA All-Star revealed that he was open to traveling down a different road if the opportunity presented itself: Going back to Denver.

“I was open to it,” Anthony said about potentially signing with the Nuggets, as relayed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “We talked about it. People in my circle were like, ‘Go back to Denver.’ If it was that easy I probably would’ve done it. A lot of things came into play when it comes to that, kind of out of my control at that time, the timing was off. Similar to Portland, the timing has always just been off. All of the sudden that window of opportunity was there.”

Anthony spent his first seven-and-a-half seasons with the Nuggets organization, having been drafted by the team No. 3 overall back in 2003. He helped change the outlook of the franchise during his stint and established himself as one of the league’s most elite players during that time, averaging more than 25 points per game in five of those seasons.

“I don’t think I can ever stop appreciating not just the organization but the city as a whole,” Anthony said of Denver. “We were at a point in time where it was a shift, the team had just only won 17 games prior to when we came in. We kind of started or created a different culture here. The uniforms changed, we changed the colors of the uniform, the vibe in Denver was different, the aura in the city, the energy was different. We were a part of that change.”

Anthony has since moved on and recently had his contract guaranteed by Portland for the remainder of the season, emphasizing his desire to compete with the Blazers for a playoff spot this spring. In 12 games with the team, Anthony has averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 31.6 minutes per contest. The Blazers were 5-9 before signing him and have gone 5-7 since.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

  • People close to Thunder general manager Sam Presti believe his relationship with owner Clay Bennett is respectful enough that Presti could leave the organization before his contract expires if he wants to, tweets Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Presti and other prominent executives such as Raptors president Masai Ujiri have been linked to the Knicks in rumors throughout the year, especially with league observers beginning to question the job security of current Knicks president Steve Mills.
  • Thunder guard Chris Paul has served as a mentor to Darius Bazley this season, helping the 19-year-old adjust to his first season in the league, Olivia Panchal of DailyThunder.com writes. “It’s been great because [Paul] teaches you so much,” Bazley said. “Even though we were just playing one-on-one, he was stopping and just saying you can do this or you can do that. It just helps because [he] gives you advice on and off the court.”
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic examines the Nuggets’ situation with the trade deadline less than two months away, detailing how the team has plenty of depth to offer in deals and could seek draft compensation in return. Denver sports a competitive team geared around All-Star center Nikola Jokic, recording a 17-8 record through 25 games.

Western Notes: Harden, Paul, Popovich, Jokic

James Harden has been logging heavy minutes and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t sure how to reduce his workload, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Harden had played a league-high 38.9 MPG in the seven games since Eric Gordon suffered a knee injury that required surgery. “You always have concerns,” D’Antoni said. “He’s been shouldering a lot of responsibility, played a lot of minutes. We’ve had guys hurt and Eric can’t spell him. He’s got to shoulder the load of scoring all the time. So, yeah, you worry about it. I don’t have a solution (for) it.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Thunder guard Chris Paul has developed strong relationships with young players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I think Chris is just a huge kid, and that’s what it is,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “So, he likes hanging out with guys like me and Baze, goof around a lot, make fun of each other, and it’s all fun and games.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thinks it will be a while before a NBA team names a woman as its head coach, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It’s a process and it doesn’t happen quickly. But I think the more women there are [in the game] and as it becomes more commonplace and more the rule, it will then depend on an organization realizing there are women that can do this,” he said. Every woman can’t, every man can’t. But the point is there gotta be enough to choose from and it’s gotta be pretty commonplace before I think somebody’s gonna pull the trigger.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has taken some heat on social media for his physique and weight but he shrugs it off, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. “It doesn’t bother me,” Jokic said. The max player’s statistics are down virtually across the board. He’s averaging four points less than last season (16.1 PPG) while shooting a career-low 46.7 percent from the field.