First, Darius Bazley decided to forgo a scholarship at Syracuse to play one season in the G League before declaring himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft. Now, after signing with agent Rich Paul and Klutch Sports in May, he's also forgoing the G League to serve as a New Balance intern.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times:
"This week, Paul revealed he has arranged for Bazley to spend the heart of the college basketball season—January, February and March—as an intern at New Balance.
"The internship, to be precise, is folded into a handsome shoe contract Bazley, 18, has landed with New Balance on the lure of his pro potential. According to Paul, Bazley’s multiyear deal will pay him $1 million 'no matter what happens' with his NBA career—and can pay up to $14 million if he reaches all performance incentives."
"They hooked me up," Bazley said of the internship.
In March, Bazley announced his decommitment from Syracuse to play in the G League. But in late August, he told Shams Charania of The Athletic that he would be skipping the G League, too:
"Talking about it over with my group, we felt confidently that the G League wasn't going to be needed and now I can use this time to work on my craft. It's mainly me talking to Rich [Paul], he knows so much, and whenever he speaks my ears perk up. When Miles [Bridges] was in Cleveland for his predraft workouts, whenever he got a chance to work out in front of NBA teams, I was working out in the gym, too. So that played a part in it, me playing well in those workouts for us to say there's no upside in the G League. 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."
The NBA has attempted to make the G League path more viable for players who don't intend to play college basketball, creating a "professional path" contract for prospects that pays them $125,000, ostensibly a holdover option until the league allows players to enter the draft immediately after high school.
The G League route would have offered Bazley experience and time on the court, but Paul isn't worried about that trade-off.
"There will be some things he misses out on, but I'm not worried at all—not with the talent and skill set he has," Paul said. "No matter what we do this year, he still has to be developed in the NBA. You see it even with the highest draft picks—it's not like you come into the league as a rookie and set the league on fire."
The gamble will pay off if Bazley is a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA draft, though that's hardly a guarantee. In his most recent mock draft, B/R's Jonathan Wasserman didn't project Bazley to be a first-round pick, while ESPN's Jonathan Givony projected him at No. 18 overall in his August mock.
As Charania noted, however, Bazley has top-10 talent, and he's hardly the first player to bypass a year of college. Players like Emmanuel Mudiay, Dante Exum and Terrance Ferguson played a year overseas, for instance, while Mitchell Robinson dropped out of Western Kentucky last year to train for the draft.
Regardless, his lucrative agreement with New Balance should act as insurance in the event he isn't a lottery selection.