Darius Bazley

Thunder Notes: Dort, Bazley, Giddey, Salary Cap, Draft

The Thunder are interested in reaching contract extension agreements with Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley but only if the price is right, GM Sam Presti told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto and other media members on Monday.

“They’re both great guys,” Presti said. “I want to hear what they’re thinking, and I need them to understand we have to also balance the interest of the team as well.”

Presti indicated extension talks with Dort haven’t begun, Mussatto tweets.

“We’ll definitely have a conversation on that,” Presti said. “I don’t know when those conversations will pick up. We’ll have some different options. I don’t want to get into all of them.”

Here are some other highlights from Presti’s annual end-of-season press conference, via Mussatto:

  • Dort (shoulder), Bazley (knee) and Josh Giddey (hip), among others, didn’t finish the season due to injuries but Presti expects everyone on the roster to be ready for training camp.
  • The Thunder will play in two summer leagues, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski will play in Salt Lake City.
  • The Thunder have only $54MM on the books for the 2023/24 season and will continue efforts to keep their salary sheet clean leading up to a new CBA in the summer of 2023.
  • If they’re not playing meaningful games as next season progresses, the Thunder plan to once again go into development mode as the season winds down. “We’re not just trying to figure out how to win two more games next year,” Presti said. “We could do that, but that solution doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best long-term solution for the team.”
  • There’s a slim chance the Thunder could hold onto all four picks it currently possesses in the draft. “One thing I don’t think has been explored enough in the NBA is just drafting everybody and then figuring it out,” Presti said.

Thunder’s Bazley Out For Rest Of Season

Thunder forward Darius Bazley has sustained a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture in his right knee and will miss the team’s remaining eight games, the team’s PR department tweets.

Bazley has appeared in 69 games this season, averaging 10.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.4 APG and 1.0 BPG in 27.9 MPG. He was injured during the first half of the Thunder’s game against Denver on Saturday.

Bazley had been on a scoring tear prior to the injury, scoring 22 or more points in four of the previous seven games.

Back in October, the Thunder exercised their fourth-year option on Bazley, who is on his rookie contract. He’ll make $4.26MM next season.

Bazley is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and it will be interesting to see if the knee injury impacts Oklahoma City’s desire to extend him or the offer they’ll present. His scoring, rebounding and minutes totals dropped this season — he averaged 13.7 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 31.2 MPG last season. However, Bazley displayed greater defensive versatility this season by effectively guarding multiple positions, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

COVID-19 Updates: Raptors, Thunder, Stewart, Freedom, Strus

After briefly having no players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the first time in weeks, the Raptors placed Svi Mykhailiuk and Yuta Watanabe in the protocols today, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (via Twitter), only three players on the Raptors’ roster have avoided entering the protocols in the last month. Two of those players – David Johnson (injury) and Goran Dragic (personal) – have been away from the team, leaving Chris Boucher as the lone active player not to be affected.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates:

  • Thunder guard Tre Mann and big man Darius Bazley have cleared the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). That leaves rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the only Oklahoma City player still in the protocols.
  • Celtics center Enes Freedom returned to practice today, having exited the COVID-19 protocols, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aaron Nesmith is the only Celtic who remains in the protocols.
  • Isaiah Stewart has cleared the protocols and met the Pistons in Charlotte, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic. It’s unclear if the big man will be available on Wednesday vs. the Hornets or if he’ll need more time to get back into game condition.
  • Heat guard Max Strus is no longer in the protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Miami now has four players in the protocols, with six hardship additions on 10-day deals, so not all of those players will be able to be active going forward.
  • The full list of players in the COVID-19 protocols can be found right here.

COVID Updates: Green, Brooks, Bazley, Augustin, Scrubb, Niang, Neto

The league continues to be ravaged by COVID positives with an increasing number of players entering the league’s health and safety protocols. Here are the latest updates:

  • Warriors star forward Draymond Green has entered the protocols, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Green joined four other Warriors in the protocols heading into a pair of games against Denver.
  • The Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton and Yves Pons all entered the protocols prior to their game against Sacramento on Sunday, the team’s PR department tweets. Memphis now has five players under those restrictions.
  • Darius Bazley became the first Thunder player in protocols, Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic tweets.
  • Veteran Rockets guard D.J. Augustin has entered the health and safety protocols, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • Clippers two-way player Jay Scrubb has been placed in the protocols, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
  • Wizards guard Raul Neto has joined two other Washington players in the protocols, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets.
  • Two Hornets regulars, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, are now in the protocols, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • On the positive side, Sixers forward Georges Niang has cleared the protocols, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Western Notes: Morant, Rockets, Zeller, Bazley

After going 10-2 while Ja Morant was out due to a knee sprain, the Grizzlies lost at home in Morant’s return on Monday. The defeat came at the hands of an Oklahoma City team that Memphis had beaten by 73 points earlier in the month.

Morant, who had 16 points and eight assists in 28 minutes, was happy to be back on the court, but he admitted after the game that the reaction from the fans in Memphis was a far cry from the “MVP” chants he heard earlier in the season.

“Running down the court, I heard some of our fans courtside tell me I need to sit back out,” Morant said, per Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I just want to know what they wanted me to get out of that. I feel like that just makes it worse.”

Although the Grizzlies are just 9-11 with Morant in the lineup this season, the general consensus is that they benefited from a favorable schedule and some good luck during his absence. As Barnes relays, teammate Desmond Bane scoffed at the idea that the team was better off without its star point guard.

“That’s nonsense. Nonsense,” Bane said. “People just want something to talk about. Ja’s an easy target because he’s the best player on the team. He’s an All-Star in his third year and we happened to win some games and guys were out with teams we were playing. … There was something that popped up on my phone talking about trading Ja Morant. He’ll be in Memphis as long as he wants to be in Memphis. He’s our franchise, for sure.”

Here are a few more notes from around the Western Conference:

  • Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is hopeful that Jalen Green (hamstring), who has been out since November 24, will be back in the lineup before Christmas, but said Kevin Porter Jr. (thigh), who last played on December 3, will remain sidelined through the Christmas break, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. The Rockets are in action on Wednesday in Milwaukee and Thursday in Indiana, then will resume play next Monday in Charlotte.
  • The Trail Blazers announced on Sunday in a press release that Cody Zeller (small fracture of right patella) is making progress in his recovery and increasing his on-court activity. However, he’s still unavailable for the time being and will be reevaluated in a week.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores how and why the Thunder decided to move Darius Bazley to the bench after he had started his last 82 games across two seasons. Head coach Mark Daigneault talked to general manager Sam Presti before making the move, as Mussatto writes.

Northwest Notes: Rivers, Hyland, Bazley, Wolves

Following his first-hand experience with COVID-19, Nuggets guard Austin Rivers is worried about the increased effect it’s having on the league, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Rivers, who was asymptomatic at first, eventually developed body aches, headaches and breathing issues. He was able to return to the court Friday and expressed concern about the toll the virus is taking on many rosters.

“It’s getting a little bit out of hand in the NBA, to be honest with you,” Rivers said. “I don’t know what we gotta do, whether it’s go back to limiting who’s in the arena, or we gotta test every day. We definitely gotta go back, obviously, to testing every day. I think that’s what we’re doing. The numbers are just getting scary at this point. They’ve got all types of variants.”

Rivers played in the bubble setting in Orlando at the end of the 2019/20 season and said no one wants to bring that back. The Nuggets have emphasized responsible behavior to their players and staff members, but Rivers fears that the virus may be uncontrollable.

“What can we do to minimize chances of spread?” he said. “The problem is, a lot of this is on the onus of what you do when you leave the facility. No matter if we test, or mask, no mask, fans, no fans, at the end of the day, when guys go home, you don’t know what they’re doing, you don’t know whether they’re going out. … You’re gonna stop guys from going out? It’s impossible.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rookie guard Bones Hyland said he learned a lesson after being benched for the Nuggets‘ game on Wednesday because of a violation of team rules, Singer adds in a separate story. Hyland and coach Michael Malone didn’t reveal any details about the infraction, but they both indicated it’s part of learning how to be an NBA player. “We’re a better team when Bones Hyland is available,” Malone said Friday. “He knows that. This is a learning process for all young men. Tonight, he’s back with the team, he learned his lesson, and he helps us get a really important road win.”
  • The Thunder pulled Darius Bazley from the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since he was a rookie, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Coach Mark Daigneault said Bazley accepted the decision “professionally” when he was told about it (Twitter link). “Anytime we make a decision, it’s under the presumption that it’s going to work,” Daigneault said. “If we didn’t think this had the potential to kickstart him and help him reach the capability he has a player, we wouldn’t do it.” (Twitter link)
  • The Timberwolves need another big man next to Karl-Anthony Towns and should be aggressive about pursuing Pacers center Myles Turner, contends La Velle E. Neal III of The Star-Tribune.

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.