Darius Bazley had given a verbal commitment to play his college ball at Syracuse. If he was going to rethink that there were a host of other programs — Florida, Ohio State, Louisville, and on and on — ready to step in.
Instead, Bazley decommited and instead is going to polish his skills for a season in the G-League, then turn pro.
Top recruits have shunned college ball to get paid to play overseas before —Terrance Ferguson in Australia, Emmanuel Mudiay, Brandon Jennings before either of them — but the G-League and its $25,000 max salary has not been an option up until now. Bazley talked about his decision with Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“This is a life-changing decision,” Bazley, one of the top players in the Class of 2018, told Yahoo Sports. “I put a lot of thinking into this with my mom and close circle, especially sitting down with her. It’s just like making the decision to which college you want to go to. Me and her did some talking, and I prayed on it. I talked to my high school coach, Steve, who played overseas, and then I talked to a couple of guys in the G League who have experience. Ultimately, playing professional basketball has always been my dream. It’s always going to be the dream goal, always going to be the goal until I achieve it. This is going to put me one step closer to doing so.
“The G League will have the most to offer, considering that is the development league for the NBA,” he continued. “I will get more out of that than going overseas. The G League is the closest thing to the NBA.”
Bazley statement is right out of the NBA’s recruitment pitch for growing the G-League — to turn it into a genuine minor league that can grow and develop players. The league would love to turn it into an alternative for players who do not want to go the college route (whatever is ultimately decided about the one-and-done rule). In another story, Charnia had NBA executives drooling that this could open the floodgates.
When asked about a top prospect decommitting from college to play in the G League, NBA executives said it could become a portal for change. “This has the ability to alter rules moving forward and show prospects the G League is a true option,” a team official told Yahoo Sports.
“As the G League grows, the way teams develop players under NBA styles and under NBA eyes, it makes sense,” another team executive said of the move. “There’s no new culture in the G League, nothing out of the NBA norm, and you’re growing in an NBA environment. It could open the floodgates for players who want to focus on basketball and development, first and foremost.”
Maybe, but I’m skeptical. The main reason is what drives every decision in the NBA — money. Right now the top salary in the G-League is $25,000 (except for players on two-way contracts with NBA teams, which players straight out of high school cannot qualify for). We know from the FBI reports that likely No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton had about four times that much come to him to play in college. For other elite recruits, $25K might be a paycut, too.
If in the coming years the NBA does change the one-and-done rule and again allows teams to draft guys right out of high school, we likely will see 19-year-olds getting development time in the G-League. That is a great use of the league, to develop those players games (and them physically) while under an NBA eye and contract. However, players going straight to the G-League? We’ll see.
As for Bazley, he is an elite recruit. He’s a McDonald’s All-American and in that game recently had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and one block in just 17 minutes. He has good size, can run the floor, shoot threes, and has real potential as an NBA wing. Where he lands a year from now (in what is considered as of now a down 2019 class) remains to be seen, but if he goes the G-League route and gets picked high others will consider it.