OKLAHOMA CITY — As of press time, Thunder general manager Sam Presti had not yet addressed the media following Thursday evening’s NBA draft.
However, given that all reports have Darius Bazley headed to Oklahoma City, there’s not a lot Presti could have said directly.
Bazley is a 6-foot-9, 210-pound small forward/power forward who, a year ago, was a five-star recruit out of Princeton High School in Sharonville, Ohio.
A McDonald’s All-American and the top class of 2018 prospect in Ohio, Bazley committed and de-committed to both Ohio State and Syracuse before deciding to spend a year in the G-League prior to this year’s draft. However, that never happened.
Instead, he eventually accepted a three-month internship with New Balance, the apparel and shoe company, that paid him $1 million as part of a shoe deal. Since choosing that very different route, Bazley has prepared for the draft, which culminated in his becoming the No. 23 selection on Thursday.
While Bazley’s path to the NBA is very different, so too is the draft path that has him headed to Oklahoma City.
The reason Presti was unlikely to address the Bazley pick directly is that, officially, Oklahoma City did not draft him. Utah did. Also, Utah was picking on behalf of Memphis (which was picking on behalf of the Thunder).
It goes back to the trade that sent Mike Conley from Memphis to Utah, for which Memphis received the No. 23 pick.
That trade, like many trades that involve draft picks on the eve of — or during — the draft, may not become official for weeks.
What the Thunder did Thursday night — unofficially, yet reportedly, just like the Conley deal — was trade their No. 21 selection for Memphis’ (via Utah) No. 23 selection, in return getting a second-round pick from Memphis in the 2024 draft.
Two selections before Utah officially chose Bazley, Oklahoma City officially chose Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga. Still, Bazley should be headed to OKC and Clarke should be headed to Memphis.
A year ago, the Thunder received Hamidou Diallo in a similar fashion.
Diallo was selected No. 45 by Brooklyn, which, in a deal involving Dwight Howard, had traded the pick to Charlotte, which traded the selection to Oklahoma City on draft night for a future draft pick.
Mock drafts pegged Bazley’s draft position from the last few selections in the first round to the first six or seven in the second round.
HoopsHype, which creates an aggregate mock draft around the prognostications of NBADraft.net, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Athletic and The Ringer, figured Bazley to be the aggregate No. 35 selection.
According to NBADraft.net’s evaluation of Bazley, his strengths include a 7-foot wingspan and an 8-11 standing reach, a “natural athleticism and versatility” that give him “good slashing ability.” Also, he can get to the rim with both hands and, reportedly, shot 40 percent from 3-point land at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
Also according to NBADraft.net, his weaknesses include the raw nature of his game, the lack of a consistent half-court scoring method and lack of strength.
Bazley turned 19 only nine days ago, on June 12. He’ll turn 20, it would appear, following his first season in Oklahoma City.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Darius Bazley's last name.