Darius Bazley won’t play in the G League after all. The former five-star recruit will bypass entering the G League and will instead start training for the 2019 NBA Draft, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Bazley made headlines in March with his decision to renege on his commitment to Syracuse with plans of entering the G League. No NBA-caliber prospect had ever taken the G League route out of high school before, making Bazley a fascinating test case of if the league could become a viable option for top recruits who wanted to skip college.
So why is Bazley backing off his decision to play in the G League? Here’s what he told Charania:
“It’s mainly me talking to [agent] Rich [Paul], he knows so much, and whenever he speaks my ears perk up. 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.
Paul has leveraged his friendship with LeBron James to turn into one of the most powerful agents in basketball. For Bazley, being able to workout in front of NBA teams when his peers are going off to college is an incredible advantage. He’s choosing to take the “mystery man” route here, preferring to not let teams over-analyze his G League tape to instead let his own pre-draft workouts speak for themselves.
Bazley isn’t the first player to take this route
The obvious parallel here is Mitchell Robinson, the five-star recruit one year ahead of Bazley who reneged on his commitment from Western Kentucky and chose to spend his entire year training for the draft. Robinson slid to the second round in June, where the Knicks eventually scooped him up at pick No. 36. That may have been considered a disappointing result for Robinson, but he shined in Las Vegas Summer League and eventually signed a two-year guaranteed contract that is similar to what first-round picks get.
The “mystery man” route isn’t a bad one. It worked for Thon Maker, who entered the draft out of high school through a loophole and was selected No. 10 overall by the Bucks. Terrance Ferguson is another player who bypassed college and instead played overseas in Australia before becoming the No. 21 pick in 2017.
Can the G League really be a viable option for top recruits?
If Bazley would have stuck with his plan to play in the G League this season, he would have had to enter the G League draft. Ideally, the team that drafted him would have wanted to develop him in hopes of its NBA affiliate getting a better evaluation of him ahead of next June’s NBA draft.
Bazley not being able to control his own destination was one thing that scared him off. There’s also competing agendas in the G League, as Bazley explained to Charania:
“The G League is the only league where winning might not be everything. 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 is projected as the No. 18 pick in ESPN’s early 2019 mock draft. Will his decision to bypass both college and the G League help or hurt his stock? There’s an entire generation of younger players waiting to find that out.