It appears word of the new-look Brooklyn Nets, as told by General Manager Sean Marks, has reached all corners of the NBA. Ask Darius Bazley. Brooklyn’s newest and likely final signing of the offseason confirmed as much in his introductory press conference with the team, held over Zoom, on Thursday afternoon.
When asked what drew him to the borough, Bazley answered, “the young core, with also a veteran presence as well...They looked like they had fun, they looked like they played hard and together. It was just something I wanted to be a part of.”
Throughout this off-season, the first of a markedly new era, Marks and Jacque Vaughn have consistently preached the values of roster consistency, building a competitive environment that (hopefully) leads to individual and team-wide growth. While the current roster may not be as young as some of its baby-faced counterparts in Oklahoma City or Houston, no core player is over thirty years old — though Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Royce O’Neale all celebrated the big 3-0 in 2023.
In any case, the reason for mutual interest between Bazley and Brooklyn is clear. He is the third of three like-minded signings for the Nets this summer, following Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV. At 25 and 24 years old, respectively, Smith and Walker are already uber-athletic, well-traveled NBA veterans of multiple teams. They’ve shown occasional flashes of excellence and have fallen out of rotations.
Bazley is not so different, a 23 year old entering his fifth NBA season on his third different team. Last season, he appeared in just 43 games, averaging less than five points a night. This coming two years after averaging just under 14 points a night in his age-20 season; it’s clear why the Nets believe there is some untapped potential there:
Double-clutch dunk from Darius Bazley pic.twitter.com/bVPXShcUGB— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 16, 2022
Bazley took the Zoom wearing hat, telling reporters, “To me, wearing a hat is like putting on shoes.”
“I mean, Dennis and Lonnie, two really good players,” said Bazley on the prospect of joining Brooklyn’s other free-agent signings on the court. “Obviously, like you said, really athletic. I’m excited to get in and see everybody. I don’t know at what point we’ll all get together but just getting in the gym, work, play some...I’m definitely excited,”
And when asked how he expects his new team to play this season, the ex-Thunder and ex-Sun simply stated, “fast.”
Other than raw athleticism, Bazley is known as a defense-first wing, a quality he expects to bring to a Brooklyn team known for building around its wing defenders. When asked what skills may get him on the court, he said, “First and foremost, defensively: being able to match-up one through four, one through five, guard bigger wings, be able to guard smaller guards as well. I’m looking forward to that.”
Offensively, a lack of 3-point marksmanship has troubled Bazley, who made waves in 2018 with a then-novel decision to bypass the NCAA and head to the G-League, then dump that idea for a million dollar “internship” with New Balance. The 6’9” lefty has a career percentage of just 31% from the outside, though he has scaled down his attempts in recent seasons, taking only 53 last season but making 37.7%. And while he expects to be a “knock-down shooter” in Brooklyn, he also added that “The main goal is to win, not for me to — I’m not going into the season like, ‘How can I insert my game?’...like these are all things that come with it, but it’s not my main focus.”
Bazley is not expected to immediately step into a major role with the team, though that could easily change given impressive early performances. He did, after all, sign a contract that’s not fully guaranteed:
Darius Bazley's contract with the Brooklyn Nets is for one year at the veteran minimum, a league source told @spotrac.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 19, 2023
Bazley's deal is non-guaranteed with a $200K opening night trigger and a $700K mid-December trigger. Fully guaranteed on league-wide date of January 10.
There’s no denying, though, that a 23-year-old with Bazley’s athleticism who did shoot 37.7% from deep last year, albeit on limited attempts, could have an impact on a team clearly looking to stock up on those traits this offseason. Darius Bazley, though not the flashiest addition, is certainly a bellwether of the Brooklyn Nets’ current focus, both in terms of his age, ability and athleticism and how much he counts against the salary cap.
- How Darius Bazley fits the Nets’ roster going into this season - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- New Nets forward Darius Bazley: ‘Brooklyn was the place to be’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Versatile Darius Bazley sees himself as right piece for Nets - Zach Braziller - New York Post
- Darius Bazley reveals motivation behind Nets signing, expectations for role - Erik Slater - Clutch Points