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Thunder GM Sam Presti encouraged by Darius Bazley’s ballhandling, but knows it’ll be a process with him


The Oklahoma City Thunder took a chance in one of the most unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, selecting Darius Bazley with the 23rd overall pick, a long, dynamic forward who chose to forgo his college eligibility and turned down Syracuse to seek out his own path to the league. Thunder general manager Sam Presti is well aware that Bazley doesn’t have that valuable year(s) of playing in a team environment before he declared for the draft, but knows the skills are still there to make him a bright player.

“His ability to handle the ball at his size is really, really unique, and defensively he’s got great range for a young player at that size, as well,” Presti told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “It’s going to be a process with him. We’ll have to be patient. We understand that. But at that range of the draft, to be able to get a player that has those ball-handling skills at 6-foot-9 is pretty unique.”

Bazley is by no means the first to skip out on college to find his own way, but he did explore a much different route, not playing in the G League or signing overseas, but rather taking an internship with New Balance during his “off” year after signing a deal with the Boston-based sneaker company.

The 6-foot-9 forward will still need to adjust to playing in the pros and how starkly different it is from the high school and AAU circuit, yet Presti and the front office have put the faith and now are able to put in the time on his development as OKC undergoes a rebuild.