There could be a new trend starting with blue-chip recruits coming out of high school: opting to forego college in order to go straight to the G-League.
Darius Bazley, the No. 9 recruit in the 2018 class, has decided to decommit from Syracuse and enter the NBA’s G-League, where he is allowed to play directly out of high school.
From Shams Charania of The Vertical:
“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.”
This is exactly the sort of decision that the NBA is hoping more elite college athletes make in order to transform the G-League into an NBA minor league system akin to the MLB. This is evident in the fact that all but two of 30 NBA teams have their own G-League affiliate now.
Here is what the NBA said about Bazely’s decision according to Charania:
“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.”
That is the pie in the sky ideal, but is pretty unrealistic at the moment. The maximum G-League salary is $25,000 unless you are on a two-way contract with an NBA team, which guys in Bazley’s situation wouldn’t be eligible for. With these elite prospects often being paid far more than that to attend the top basketball universities in the country or having the option to make six-figures playing professionally in Europe, it is not that realistic to assume that many 18-year-old kids will pass up the compensation and attention afforded to them with other avenues available to them for a year before they are NBA Draft eligible.
It will be interesting to follow him in the G-League and see how the decision affects his draft stock going into the 2019 NBA Draft.