The Thunder’s First Round Pick from the 2019 Draft Darius Bazley was masked in secrecy since no one had seen him play for a year. He had taken an internship at New Balance instead of attending Syracuse as a 5 Star Recruit. Bazley flashed some intriguing potential during the season up until its stoppage, and was stellar during the NBA Bubble, tying and breaking some Rookie Scoring records for the Thunder, previously held by Russell Westbrook. As a mysteriously talented 20-year-old, Bazley will be a key part of the rebuild.
During the Bubble, Bazley demonstrated the improvements he made finishing at the rim, especially through contact (something with which he had struggled during the earlier part of that season), and became a lethal shooter from Three. Defensively, he showcased the ability to defend multiple positions, which along with his improved scoring, made him a vital player for the team in the Rockets series. Bazley’s elite ball-handling ability (for his size) is another valuable weapon in his growing arsenal. Combine all his unique skillsets, and you have a truly unique player with legit star potential.
The player’s film I’d want Bazley to watch is Giannis. Giannis, with his superb athleticism, insane wingspan, long strides to the basket, elite ball-handling for his size, and stellar defense is the perfect player for Bazley to study and try to emulate. Before he became the back-to-back MVP, Giannis was a very skinny, and tremendously raw player, who had to fill out his frame to absorb contact and reach his full potential. If Bazley can hit the weight room and bulk up some more, he can become an absolute force at the rim. Sam Presti and the coaching staff have mentioned that they have high expectations for Bazley this season, and have given him much more responsibility. With Gallinari gone, and a clear focus on player development this season, Bazley will be given ample opportunity to showcase his skill. Players generally take a big leap in between years one and two, so I’d expect Bazley to make large strides in his development.
With the departures of Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, it opens up more time on the floor for Darius Bazley to show off his unique playmaking ability. That is something that is tough to accomplish with a three-guard lineup. Mark Daigneault has spent training camp preaching the importance of “position-less” basketball and running up-tempo. Those thoughts have been echoed with the countless players raving about the team’s “energy” during camp to the media.
Going position-less, without three true ball handlers on the floor, will really help Darius Bazley show why he is a first-round talent. With his great rebounding ability, he will be able to take the ball off the rim and go coast-to-coast you should see a huge leap from Darius Bazley this season.