After taking a unique path to the NBA through taking a gap year, Darius Bazley’s career has been a roller coaster to this point. He’s shown flashes of being a quality two-way talent, but has been inconsistent on both ends.
Still just 22 years old, the 6-foot-8 forward is entering an important year. He’s going to have to prove he’s worth another contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the long-term core.
Following the NBA All-Star break last season, Bazley proved to be a quality piece on the roster and was much more consistent than the early parts of the season.
After that event, Bazley played in 22 games (16 starts) while averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. What was most promising is that he shot 48.5% from the floor. Prior to the break, he was just 40.0% from the field.
His 3-point shooting stayed relatively the same, knocking down 30.5% of his shots from beyond the arc but overall was a more efficient offensive player.
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Defensively, Bazley really shined at the end of the season. Following the All-Star break, he produced a combined 1.6 blocks and steals per contest. He showcased his versatility by guarding players of all positions. Whether it was guards on the perimeters or centers in small ball lineups, he was effective on all fronts.
This improvement on the second half of the season is something the Oklahoma City front office will hope Bazley carries into the 2022-23 campaign. While he’s likely not a starting caliber forward on a playoff team, he could still be a highly impactful bench player down the road.
The upcoming season truly is a make-or-break situation for Bazley, who will have the opportunity to prove he can be impactful on both ends of the floor and be a building block on this Thunder roster.
It’s important that he’s consistent and performs well all throughout the year.