The OKC Thunder had an incredibly tough schedule for the month of January. Rookie Darius Bazley stood up during this tough stretch.
The month of January is always tough in the NBA. It was especially tough for the OKC Thunder thanks to playing 17 games in 31 days which is the most allowed in the NBA for a single month. The Thunder played nine of those on the road as well as three back to backs.
In fact, you have to go back to the Christmas period to find a time when the OKC Thunder had two days off in a row, prior to the four days they had off in February. That is a lot of basketball played in a very short space of time.
This is a big part of the reason that rookies tend to struggle through this part of the season. They have played their first few months and the shine of being in the NBA is starting to wear off. The grueling schedule along with the nagging little injuries to the body and it being the middle of winter can take its toll.
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This is not the case for Darius Bazley. The Thunder rookie played in all 17 games for the month, in fact, he and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the only two players who have played every game for the Thunder this season. This is very impressive for a rookie.
On top of this, Bazley actually put up the best numbers of his very young career. In 18.1 minutes per game in January, Bazley averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.7 blocks per game.
He only took 1.29 perimeter attempts per game as opposed to 2.5 perimeter attempts in the month of December. This seemingly helped his confidence as he is shooting 31.8 percent from deep as opposed to 21.1 percent in December.
Now that the schedule is going to get easier and Bazley is going to get some decent time off over the All-Star break look out for the rookie to come further out of his shell. Bazley is an energy player, he plays himself into the ground when he is on the court.
When you combine the experience Bazley has accrued so far this season with a fresher outlook after All-Star break, well the OKC Thunder will be the beneficiaries.
Bazley might get an early start to the break given he left the match versus the Celtics after he tweaked something mid Euro-step. He was hobbled and exited the game, not to return with what the team is calling a ‘knee sprain’.
The rookie has proven himself so far this year. With further development in the second half of the season, he is a good chance to be an x-factor come playoffs.