OKC Thunder 30 for 30 roundtable: RoY battle and Bazley’s performance

OKC Thunder Roundtable series: Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Roundtable series: Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Question13 of the 30 for 30 roundtable series considers the battle between Zion and Ja for Rookie of the Year and opines on OKC Thunder rookie Darius Bazley.

Over the past few seasons, the OKC Thunder have taken an alternative route in the draft process. Instead of selecting players in the College system Sam Presti has approached draft day with a view to alternative prospects.

That was the case in 2017 when the Thunder picked Terrance Ferguson who played in Australia. Similarly, this past summer they picked Darius Bazley who took an entirely different approach to his pre-draft season by interning at New Balance and doing his own workouts.

Moving forward OKC has a fully stocked draft closet comprised primarily of picks from the Clippers, Rockets, and Heat plus draft swaps.

The 2020 Draft will be an adventure given the cancellation of the March Madness tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, this could affect workouts, the Combine and many other aspects of a typical summer.

In question 13, the T. I. writing team considers the two potential superstars Ja Morant and Zion Williamson in terms of who has the edge in Rookie of the Year. Additionally, the team dives into OKC Thunder rookie Darius Bazley.

With that, I give you question 13 from the series…

Q13: Ja Morant seemed like a lock to win RoY – is he still the frontrunner over Zion and how would you rate Darius Bazley’s rookie campaign?

Shontelle Matano:

I believe Ja Morant is still the favorite to win Rookie of the year. Zion Williamson is a sensational player who has an incredible future. However, due to Morant playing more games and helping to lead the Memphis Grizzlies young squad to a playoff position, I think he should receive the Award.

If Williamson played a full season and the Pelicans were in the top eight then my opinion may be different. But you’ve got to commend Morant on what he has done this year. His athletic, high-speed game reminds me of Russell Westbrook.

As for Thunder rookie Darius Bazley, he has shown confidence, versatility and so much growth since first donning the blue and white. Whenever he’s on the court, he’s always doing his best to contribute in some way and that’s why I give him a B for this season so far. If the NBA returns, he’ll still have so much more to give which is something to look forward to.

Rylan Stiles:

Zion is the flashy name, and the human highlight real,  and has played great during his limited rookie season. However, Ja has to be the front runner and the winner due to his longevity and consistency this season as well as transforming a drastic turnaround in Memphis.

Morant took the Grit and Grind Griz and turned them into a flashy, spunky, and fun team to watch. While many expected improvements, being a playoff team this early certainly was not projected.

Dustin McGowen:

Zion Williamson is a very unique basketball player, and time will tell if he becomes an All-Star. I tend to be negative on Williamson as he might be too athletic for his frame, which could lead to injury. Ja Morant has not only played well but has shown himself to be a leader on an exciting Grizzlies roster that has definite ‘Thunder U’ vibes (internally crying). Ja is a lock for Rookie of the Year.

Young Darius has played well in his rookie year when not injured and looks to be a solid piece to the next version of the Thunder. I think the main goal for Bazley this season was to shake off any rust from high school and get back on the court competitively. I think future players should adopt Bazley’s route and take the $1 million shoe internship instead of possible March Madness glory.

Tamberlyn Richardson:

If there was one team that occupied my guilty pleasure NBA League Pass viewing it was the Grizzlies. That was mostly due to Ja Morant though there is much to like about several members of the young core. While Morant does things on the court which seem implausible it’s his obvious leadership tendencies which impress most.

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Zion Williamson’s injury kept him off the court too long to offer up much of a battle. His sheer size and skillset make it impossible to take your eyes off him. Many believe Zion would’ve won RoY if he’d played a greater portion of the season but personally I think the race would’ve been closer than most assume.

Of the current young players on the roster other than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander arguably only Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort have carved out a secure spot in the future core.

Bazley like most rookies navigated the ebb and flow of integrating into becoming a professional. He witnessed a steady regression in his perimeter shooting and will need to invest time improving in this area and in his ballhandling.

Conversely, Bazley shines in moments of pressure producing his best performances when starting. Chris Paul has spent time with the rook and the chemistry shows when they are on the court simultaneously.

At 19 (until mid-June) he’s got plenty of time to develop and has the “it” that shows up more in the eye and gut test than on the stat sheet.

Next. 30 x 30 roundtable Q12: Getting Defensive. dark

Sunday the team dives deeper into the 2019-20 Rookies with a view to who’ll make the first and second All-Rookie teams.

Wishing everyone a safe and healthy day.