Darius Bazley turned a lot of heads when he decided to decommit from the Syracuse Orange to instead declare for the NBA G-League draft.
He won’t be drafted by an NBA team; he has to wait a year before that happens, and whichever G-League team picks him will have him as a rental for one year. Just because, for example, he ends up on the Mad Ants does not mean he’ll be picked by the Pacers when the time comes.
There are plenty of good reasons why this is the right move for Bazley.
For one thing, he’ll be freed from the idiotic obligation to go to college classes he has no interest in attending, wasting valuable seat space when everyone knows that as soon as he clears the midseason eligibility requirement, he will be a pro in all but name. In the G-League, he’ll be focused on all basketball, all the time, and not only will he draw a salary but he will also have the chance to sign deals with shoe companies and other potential endorsements on a future potential basis.
Plus, it’s not like he’ll be invisible in the media. While G-League games aren’t nationally televised the way college games are, there’s nothing stopping national media outlets paying attention to those games.
ESPN airs G-League games on ESPNU; they could certainly elevate Bazley’s games to ESPN2 or even the mothership. NBA TV also airs G-League games; they too could feature Bazley’s contests and market him as a future star.
Plus, Bazley sees himself as a crusader, a trailblazer showing high school prospects that there’s a way besides the college basketball plantation economy to prepare for life as a professional basketball player.
Playing a 50-game season with NBA rules against fringe NBA players, some of whom bounce up and down and see minutes on actual NBA teams, is a massive difference from playing against college kids, the overwhelming majority of whom, even in power conferences, will never play a minute of pro ball at any level in the US or overseas.
Plus, there’s the bigger question that Bomani Jones raised on Twitter…
this part i don't get: if you're concerned enough with your professional future to do a year in the g-league, why did you ever commit to play zone for a year at a school with a poor track record of developing pros? https://t.co/7seCBsv0Fn
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) March 30, 2018
This is true across a lot of college basketball. The systems are incompatible with the fundamentals of NBA basketball. In the G-League, they run pro systems, sometimes even exaggerated versions of pro systems—the Rio Grande Valley Vipers serving as a test bed for Daryl Morey’s theories about basketball that get implemented by the Houston Rockets come to mind.
Bazley, or any up-and-coming would-be pros, have the potential to get the same development in the G-League that minor leaguers get in baseball, where the farm system’s been alive and well for decades, or in hockey, where the junior leagues and the pro minor leagues also hold the player-development responsibilities.
The NBA is nearly up to a full, 30-team, one team/one parent club relationship.
Once they have that, the logical next step is to turn the G-League into a full-fledged pipeline, bypassing college basketball entirely. Add two or three rounds to the draft, put those players in the G-League where every contract is a two-way contract, and eliminate the one-and-done rule entirely.
Right now, the NBA bends over backwards to cooperate with the college game. But there’s no valid reason why they should do so; the pros and college aren’t in business together.
If anything, college is in the way. The NBA takes Thanksgiving off because everyone’s watching the NFL, instead claiming Christmas for itself.
Likewise, there were no games on a night where the national spotlight was on Villanova beating Michigan for the national championship, but nobody was going to be persuaded to watch college ball if they didn’t care about the college game, NBA games or no NBA games. Pro basketball and college basketball are, in essence, two different sports.
Now that the NBA has its own player-development pipeline, they don’t need the NCAA anymore.
And now that players have a chance to earn money and focus on playing professional basketball on a trial basis without the pressure of the full NBA spotlight, they don’t need the NCAA anymore either.
Brandon Jennings chose Europe. Emmanuel Mudiay chose China. Darius Bazley is choosing the G-League, where English is spoken and the rules are the NBA’s rules.
The seed has been planted for the demise of NCAA basketball. And frankly, it’s long overdue.