Is the writing on the wall for the future of Darius Bazley?

Darius Bazley #55 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Darius Bazley #55 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are still trying to flush out their roster, amid a rebuild and General Manager Sam Presti will have a lot of decisions to make this summer. One question that looms is what to do with the 2019 first-round pick, Darius Bazley.

The OKC Thunder selected Darius Bazley in the 2019 NBA Draft just weeks before shipping Russell Westbrook and Paul George out of town.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a decision to make this summer on former first-round pick Darius Bazley, but is the writing already on the wall?

Darius Bazley is just 22 years old, but he has already played 204 games with 117 of those being stars for the fourth-year forward who has played under two different head coaches in his career.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted the New Balance intern that elected to not play college basketball, the world was a bit shocked. Though, the tools were there, seen in the high school and AAU circuit.

A 6’8 forward that can switch defensively 1-5, jump out of the gym, handle the ball, and playmaker for his size, those were the key selling points for selecting Bazley in a draft night swap that involved Brandon Clarke who has so far carved out a better niche in the NBA than Bazley.

However, Darius Bazley’s role never really featured his key attributes in Oklahoma City. Bazley has spent most of his time in Bricktown wrapped up camping in the corner offensively. The forward has never been a good three-point shooter, the highest mark in his career overall has been this year shooting 39 percent, and the best he has shot from the corner three was as a rookie shooting it at a 35 percent clip. Though on 11 attempts from the corner this year, Bazley is shooting 55 percent from three.

Though this year, Darius Bazley is shooting a career low at the rim, just 48 percent which is in the bottom two percentile for his position according to cleaning the glass. Bazley has never finished better than the bottom 28 percentile in rim finishing for his possession.

The Thunder could use Bazley more as a big man, setting screens and rolling hard to the rim, off-ball cuts to the basket, and sitting in the dunker spot. The question we will never have a true answer to is whether that is more on Darius Bazley not working and moving off the ball, or is Mark Daigneault trying to make him into a 3-and-D corner sitter. Of course, fans have the biggest issue with his mid-range isolations which usually end in a spin move that features a turnover. Though, those have been cut down to around one a game.

Despite his offensive struggles, Darius Bazley has turned into an incredible defender that can switch 1-5 and in man defense, he is graded as good to the tune of 0.952 points per possession which ranks in the 64th percentile according to synergy.

This week, Mark Daigneault had Darius Bazley on the bench for two straight did not play coaches decisions before placing him back into the rotation on Saturday night against Cleveland. With Restricted Free Agency looming this summer, and Sam Presti’s history of not allowing players to hit RFA, is the writing on the wall for the future of Bazley in Bricktown?

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to make room this summer for their 2023 NBA Draft first-round pick, while also owning the Washington Wizards’ second-round pick which is currently in the top 40 resting at pick 37.

Who else on this roster would you like Sam Presti to move on from besides Darius Bazley? Who would even be an option? Mike Muscala has a team option, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Isaiah Joe, and Aaron Wiggins each have non-guaranteed deals.

Those are the only players that financially Sam Presti can just outright waive (or decline the option in Muscala’s case), and they will need to make room for two players. Granted, trades are still an option with a mountain of draft picks and some nice contracts for key contributors like Lu Dort and Kenrich Williams, but the most likely path is, of course, Darius Bazley.

Could a trade be worked out before the NBA Trade Deadline? Sure, but either way, I do not see Darius Bazley making it to his fifth year in Oklahoma City.

Though a change of scenery might just do the trick for Bazley, who I still think can be a nice NBA role player with his skill set.

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