Darius Bazley spent this past year training on his own for the draft.

By Alaa Abdeldaiem
June 20, 2019

The Thunder selected Princeton High School forward Darius Bazley with the No. 23 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

A consensus five-star recruit and the top prospect in his state, Bazley earned McDonald's All-American honors in 2018. The 6'9" forward initially committed to Syracuse but later chose to bypass college with intentions of joining the NBA G League. Instead, Bazley spent this past year training on his own for the draft. 

Bazley averaged 15.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals his freshman season and was named to the Division III Southwest Ohio all-district second team. Bazley led his Princeton team with 24 points in a nationally televised game against top recruit Romeo Langford and New Albany High School on Jan. 19.

Bazley participated in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit in April.

SI NBA draft expert Jeremy Woo’s breakdown: Bazley made headlines with a string of decisions that led him out of his commitment to Syracuse and subsequent plans to play in the G League this season, instead working out in private while interning at New Balance. While nobody has seen much of him in a competitive settings over the past year, scouts were less than impressed with his showings at All-American practices and the Nike Skills Academy. Sometimes we incorrectly conflate positional length and size with versatility, and right now, Bazley has to prove his offensive skill development is trending into a playable direction. The hope is that he can become a useful defender given his length and athleticism, and round out the rest of his game enough to make positive contributions.

Jeremy Woo's grade: C+

Bazley had been gaining momentum late in the predraft process, and there was buzz that the Thunder might be one of the teams interested in grabbing him in this range. This is ultimately a long-term investment from OKC, which is no stranger to such projects, and makes this a pretty nice fit for him. They’ll be patient with him. Bazley has really improved from a physical perspective, but he likely needs time in the G League, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to contribute a ton next season. The Thunder obviously believe in him, but this was also a juncture where they perhaps could have strengthened their rotation for next season. This pick might take some extra time to properly assess, but I don’t love it at a glance.

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