The Oklahoma City Thunder are destined to rebuild in the near future. Here’s a look at one of those crucial pieces, Darius Bazley.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to trust the process going into the years ahead. The Thunder have stockpiled picks good enough for years, well into the next decade.

Going young will mean the team will not be good for a while, but they already have young players on the team that will be crucial going forward in the team’s development. Players like Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander give this team hope of a bright future to come.

There is one player that is a rookie this year and the team’s first-round pick that may be cast into a starting role due to the team’s lack of depth at the position. Darius Bazley was picked by the Thunder in the first round after the Thunder traded the 21st pick, which was Brandon Clarke, for the 23rd pick.

Bazley is an interesting prospect because he didn’t have any amateur or professional experience in his one year before the NBA. His last applicable organized experience was at Princeton High School in Sharonville, Ohio, where he averaged 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. Bazley was a decorated high school basketball player, as he was a McDonald’s All American.

In Summer League, he showed potential. He has the ability to handle the ball at an above-average level, he is able to find the big on drives and his length and size will be a problem on the defensive end. He has a lot of upside and is very raw. With a rebuilding team, he will have a lot of opportunities to grow and learn during in-game action.

OKC does not really have any options at small forward with the departure of Paul George and Bazley will be able to step in and learn the ropes through repetitions during live games. Somebody like Chris Paul will greatly help his early on development because Paul can find him for easy baskets.

In four preseason games, Bazley was second on the team, averaging 24.5 minutes per game (SGA played 26.5 minutes in the warmups). He averaged 8.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals while shooting 36.4 percent overall, hitting 28.6 percent on 3.5 3-point tries per game.

He scored 12 points in Oklahoma City’s win over the New Zealand Breakers on Oct. 10, and posted nine rebounds and six assists in the preseason finale Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

This is a small sample size and you cannot judge him off four preseason games, but — as is the question with any first-round pick — can Darius Bazley be a star player?

To answer that question we have to look at what he needs to develop. Right now he is not a good shooter and for him to be a star he will need to develop a shot. Then he will need to be able to create his own shot and score at a high rate. His intangibles will always help him on defense so he will just learn that as he gains experience.

Bazley already has the supreme ball-handling ability and the quick first step you need to be able to create your shot. So he already has what it takes to create points off drives. In Summer League, he showed the ability to back down defenders and shoot mid-range shots. He will have to develop that.

If he can bulk up he will be able to have the strength to fight through contact and shoot through traffic.

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So can Bazley be a star player? Yes. He will just have to bulk up and be able to do what he has already shown flashes of at a high rate to take his game to the next level.



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