Evaluating Darius Bazley

September 12, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, 6-9, 2000-born forward Darius Bazley stated that he will not play in the G-League after all despite having signed with an agent and had foregone college to initially plot to go there.  But now, he will decide to focus on training for the entire year rather than play in games, much like current New York Knicks’ rookie center Mitchell Robinson had opted to do last year.  Nonetheless, Bazley is still receiving first round consideration to date.  Since he may not play in games for quite a while, I decided to watch him play in a January 23rd, 2018 high school game for Princeton High against Lakota East with thanks to YouTube via westchestertownship.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared that day, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA in the short term and in the future.

Bazley is an athletic point forward that played unselfishly, sometimes to a fault.  He usually would play off the ball, but he would bring the ball up off of defensive rebounds, although he would tend to stop after getting past half court to scan the defenses.  He didn’t take many shots in this game however, while he can score in a variety of ways, his lack of aggressiveness on offense may suggest he may be more likely to be a complementary player than a go-to scorer at the NBA level.

He only took one three-point shot, but he made his only attempt from beyond the arc.  Bazley used a nifty jab step to make a contested corner three, and he shows promise to develop his outside shot for the next level.  He also showed an adequate ability to get scores off the dribble.  Bazley was able to drive left around a screen, and he used a pro-hop move to score gracefully around the basket.  On a fast break, he managed to use a nifty overhead ball fake to score on another graceful layup.  But he did once miss a runner on a contested drive on the break another time.

Also, sometimes he can tend to be a bit of a ball stopper.  Early in this game, Bazley dribbled around for quite a while, he did use a crossover, but he ended up missing a pull-up long two after dribbling to get just inside the three-point line.  He also had a bad miss another time.  On one play, he received the ball in the post, but he quickly pivoted to rush up a face-up, mid-range jumper that resulted in an airball.  Bazley looked to post up early in this game, but he had trouble getting position due to his rail thin frame.  Late in the game, Bazley managed to get fouled after getting a defensive rebound, but he missed his only free throw attempt.

In this game, Bazley did display fairly good playmaking skills.  He is a good athlete and ball handler that can swiftly bring the ball up, and he is a good passer out of the post, as he can routinely hit cutters.  He also passes well on the move, and he also does a good job of finding the open man.  Plus, he also can throw an accurate long outlet pass to set up a transition scoring opportunity on the break.   Bazley sometimes struggled to set screens due to his thin frame, but he did manage to set an off-ball screen that helped lead to a score once, as his opponent also did not make much of an effort to fight through the screen.  At times, Bazley can be inaccurate with his passes, which can lead to drops and turnovers.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Bazley will actively crash the glass, as he would often leap up to get defensive rebounds and then bring the ball up the floor.  He also managed to run down a defensive board and then pushed the pace once.  Generally, Bazley will fight to get rebounds, and he even tipped a ball to himself midway through this contest.  Plus, Bazley showed off adequate defensive skills.  He is a good weak-side shot blocker, as he will rotate off his man to help on drives, and he showed a knack for swatting shots to his teammates.  Bazley has good length, timing, and quickness, and he can cover plenty of ground, as his ability to rotate quickly can make it difficult for opponents to get shots up cleanly in the lane.  Plus, he is an active and alert defender that will contest shots inside the paint to force misses, and he showed good lateral mobility to be able to defend out on the perimeter.

At times, he can have lapses defensively, which can lead him to either commit fouls or allow scores.  One occasion was where he didn’t communicate a switch to his teammate on defense, which led to some confusion among them before an opponent made a long two.  Another time, he unnecessarily doubled off his own man, which caused a scramble that lead an opponent to make an open transition three, as Bazley was left not guarding anyone.  On a separate play, while he did successfully rotate to guard an opponent after his teammate left to over-help in the paint, Bazley forgot to contest the shot, as his opponent ended up making a three.

Other times, he may be overly aggressive on this end of the floor, as he pressed up onto an opposing ball handler, but ended up committing a foul by bumping into him just past mid-court.  Another time, he was defending on a drive in transition, but he got beat left, and he ended up fouling his opponent around the basket, which led him to allow a score and an extra free throw to his man.

In this game, even though Bazley would tend to cheat off his man, his opponents often weren’t able to take advantage of this. All too often, his opponents had trouble making jumpers, they wouldn’t cut to the hoop enough, and sometimes they wouldn’t spot the open man and then choose to drive into him, which would lead them to get their shots blocked.  Bazley did struggle to fight through screens, though there weren’t really consequences that stemmed from that in this game.

In general, Darius Bazley is an intriguing prospect that could develop into a solid two-way player in the NBA if he gets the proper coaching, training, and development over time.  The positives are that he is a good athlete that has a variety of skills, and he may have considerable upside, as he could potentially develop into a good complementary player in the association. 

Right now though, he might not be ready for the league, as he will need to improve his jump shot and position defense, and he may be far from being a polished player.  In the short term, his lack of polish may mean that he could still end up in the G-League or overseas nonetheless to start his career to get game reps before he would be ready to step into the NBA.  Still, he is a talented player whose upside could make him perhaps a likely candidate to go in the late first to the second round range for the 2019 NBA Draft.

As for the game itself, both teams played at quite a slow pace, with neither team making it to 50 points for the entire duration, even though Bazley’s Princeton High team did win that day.  Princeton High would go about half a minute without taking a shot, but Lakota East was laboriously slow, as they had some possessions where they would go over a minute without even taking a shot.  Both of these teams ran excruciatingly methodical offenses, and this game may serve as a reminder as why perhaps every league could use a shot clock, not only to speed things up, but it would also enhance players’ ability to make decisions quickly.

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