Late last week, five-star recruit Darius Bazley tore apart the plans for the future of Syracuse basketball by choosing to play in the NBA’s G League instead of with the Orange next season. SU lost the core of its 2018 recruiting class and Bazley made history by becoming the first five-star to turn down college for the G League, but his trip through the NBA’s developmental league could be more complicated than 50 games before a ticket to the big leagues. With the way current G League rules regulate players straight out of high school, teams might not be willing to give Bazley the time he expects.
The G League is generally thought of as a minor league for the NBA, where teams can send injured or ill-performing players to try and fine-tune their games. In the rare occasions where 18-year-old players (the G League age limit) enter straight form high school or overseas, it also serves as a potential path to the start of a professional career. When these younger players enter the league, though, there are different rules. Players on two-way contracts earn up to $75,000, but as a player unaffiliated with an NBA team Bazley will only make $26,000. He could have gotten more money playing overseas for a year, but Bazley told Yahoo! Sports he chose the G League for its path to the NBA, not its financial advantages. Unfortunately, that path isn’t very clear.
The G League’s 26 teams are each owned by an NBA franchise, with the team moving players up and down from one league to the other as its needs demand. When he enters, Bazley won’t be drafted by an NBA team but instead the G League team below it. He can only play for the G League team, and after the season (if everything goes according to plan) will declare for the 2019 NBA Draft. The team he had played for will lose the rights to him, and he will enter the draft just as any other prospect would. Bazley could play for the Warriors’ G League team next season (the Santa Cruz Warriors) knowing the Warriors wouldn’t be able to take him in the lottery the next season. So, if Darius Bazley is nothing more to an NBA owner than a one-year rental for a minor league team, why would any exec take him? At best, any team who takes a risk on Bazley will just be preparing him for whoever drafts him in 2019. Darius Bazley is joining a developmental team where the affiliated pro team will not be able to reap the benefits of his development. Whoever gambles on Bazley also gambles on being able to draft him the following season. Even worse, a team could draft Bazley and not play him, lowering his draft stock in an attempt to pick him up for a low price in 2019.
With his decision, Darius Bazley is trying to make history and change the way players transition from high school to the NBA. He thinks the G League is the best chance for him to make it, but there are question marks in the league’s format which lowers his value and leaves him exploitable.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson