Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This edition focuses on high school forward Darius Bazley.
It’s been an unusual year for Darius Bazley. The 6’9 forward was committed to spend his college basketball career at Syracuse but, in March 2018, Bazley elected to de-commit with an eye toward spending a year in the G League until he was eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft. From there, Bazley then shifted his focus again, flipping from the G League path to an even more uncommon one, joining New Balance as a (paid) intern for the year.
With that as the backdrop, Bazley hasn’t been on the floor in a competitive environment for quite some time, making his pre-draft evaluation extremely difficult. Still, the Atlanta Hawks hold a trio of second-round selections, putting the intriguing youngster on the radar as a potential draftee.
The ultra-slim 18-year-old from Cincinnati was a consensus top-20 high school prospect in the Class of 2018, though it is important to note that Bazley wasn’t necessarily seen as a definite “one and done” player when pledged to Syracuse. He was frequently observed on the All-Star circuit at the high school level, giving observers a bit of a window into his prospect status.
At 6’9 with a reported 6’11 wingspan, Bazley is a fluid and intriguing athlete, providing hope for a two-way projection. He must add bulk and strength in the coming years but, for now, it is easy to see the body composition that would provide the theory of a high-upside player.
From a skill perspective, Bazley handles the ball well for a player of his size and the ultimate theory of his game would include the ability to push the ball in transition after gathering a rebound on his own. He is exceptionally raw, however, with well-publicized struggles against increased competition over the summer before his New Balance tenure.
Offensively, Bazley must improve the theory of his shooting, as he certainly profiles as a perimeter-based forward. He hasn’t displayed natural finishing technique and touch at the rim in public settings, either, though it is conceivable that small sample size theater comes into play. Overall, he must polish his decision-making and overall feel for the game, and that will dictate what kind of offensive ceiling Bazley can bring.
The other end, though, is where the immense intrigue lies. Bazley’s combination of athleticism and length would, in theory, bring upside, particularly if he can protect the rim as a weak-side shot blocker in tandem with the ability to function in space. As with anything in this unusual case, however, that is pure projection at this stage, with Bazley facing “feel for the game” concerns that would certainly hamper his defensive projection to some extent.
Individual pre-draft workouts will be of tremendous importance for Bazley, as he seeks to follow in the footsteps of players like Anfernee Simons and Thon Maker in sneaking into the first round without stepping foot on a college basketball court. At this relatively early stage, a first-round landing spot seems unlikely but, for a team like the Hawks with multiple swings, Bazley could leave enough of an impression for a big swing to arrive in the second round.
Admittedly, this is one of the less informed draft evaluations that any non-insider could make, simply because of the lack of available information on Bazley over the last calendar year. Still, he deserves inclusion when discussing potentially intriguing second-round options and the overarching case for his upside makes sense. The question is just how attainable it might be.