The G League faces an uphill battle with attracting elite HS players

Photo: AP/Gregory Payan

The G League faces an uphill battle with attracting elite HS players

Boys Basketball

The G League faces an uphill battle with attracting elite HS players

Darius Bazley is back in the news after securing a lucrative endorsement deal with New Balance through his agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports (who also represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis and John Wall).

Bazley is guaranteed $1 million as a part of the deal, with a potential to earn $14 million “if he reaches all performance incentives,” according to Marc Stein.

The story, as first reported by The New York Times, is the latest development in the ever-evolving path to professional basketball.

On Thursday, the NBA G League unveiled its new pathway to the pros which would offer “Select Contracts” to elite players who are at least 18 years old.

Although this plan represents a step in the right direction— the journey of Darius Bazley further represents why a $125,000 contract might not be enough to draw elite players to the G League.

Let’s review:

The Journey of Darius Bazley

In recent years, we’ve witnessed an influx of athletes skipping college in favor of playing overseas or training in the United States to prepare for the NBA Draft.

Brandon Jennings was a trailblazer for future players like Terrance Ferguson and Emmanuel Mudiay— who all played overseas before becoming eligible for the draft.

Anfernee Simons spent a postgraduate season at IMG Academy before being selected by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The path of Darius Bazley would have been different from all others. Shortly after participating in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game, Bazley decommitted from Syracuse and announced his intentions to play in the G League instead of college.

Photo by James Sneed | Graphic by Mars Reel

In the end though, Bazley changed his mind, deciding instead to hone his skills for the next year. Here’s why:

The Risk is Greater than the Reward

In an interview with Shams Charania at The Athletic, Bazley explained why he wouldn’t be playing in the G League.

“…there’s no upside in the G League,” Bazley said. “If you play well, it’s expected. If you don’t play well, you’re not NBA-ready. That’s what they’ll say. For me, working out and preparing is the best route.”

Of course, it’s also worth noting that Bazley wasn’t offered the $125,000 contract at the time of his decision. Bazley’s earnings would have been around $36,000 if he followed through with the G League route.

However, even with that in mind, critics remain adamant that the risks of playing in the G League far outweigh any potential rewards.

As great as $125,000 might sound— if Bazley were to drop by even one pick as a result of playing in the G League, the difference in rookie contracts would be in the millions. Just compare the salaries of DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III as an example.

Graphic: Mars Reel

According to Jason Belzer at Forbes, over the next four years, Ayton will earn a maximum of $41,242,888 as the No. 1 overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. Just one pick later, Marvin Bagley is projected to earn a maximum of $36,910,320 with the Sacramento Kings. That’s a nearly $5 million difference based on one pick.

A player’s rookie deal continually depreciates by millions of dollars with each subsequent pick.

Suddenly, it becomes increasingly clear why agents wouldn’t advise a player to potentially hurt their draft stock by playing in the G League.

In college basketball, just over one percent of athletes will play professionally either in the NBA or overseas.

In comparison, the G League is comprised of physically mature men that are on the cusp of making it to the next level. The difference in competition couldn’t be further apart.

My feeling is that the G League will need to make this offer a little more enticing before we see a sizable amount of players jump at the opportunity. Darius Bazley secured a one million dollar internship with New Balance, and he did it without playing a single game in the G League.

Michael McLamb is the Sports Editor at Mars Reel. Follow him on Twitter: @McLambSays.

Check out Mars Reel for more coverage.

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The G League faces an uphill battle with attracting elite HS players
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