Nets Sign Athletic Suns Castoff With 1st-Round Pedigree

Jacque Vaughn, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Head coach Jacque Vaughn of the Brooklyn Nets.

One team’s castaway is another’s potential diamond in the rough.

That idea may be behind the Brooklyn Nets’ latest acquisition, forward Darius Bazley, formerly of the Phoenix Suns.

“Free agent forward Darius Bazley has agreed to a one-year contract with the Brooklyn Nets,” wrote ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on July 13. Bazley, 23, arrives to the Nets with an opportunity to join the frontcourt rotation after starting 118 games in his first three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.”

Bazley is one of the few intriguing pieces to leave the Suns this offseason as they build out their roster around a big three of Devin Booker, former Nets star Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal whom they acquired from the Washington Wizards this summer.

The high-flying No. 23 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft spent three-plus seasons in OKC before getting traded at the deadline in February.

He averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 2022-23, falling just shy of 1.0 assists per game.

Bazley’s best season came in 2021-22 when he averaged 10.8 points, 6.3 boards, and 1.4 assists. He did have his most efficient season from beyond the arc in 2022-23, shooting 37.7% albeit on just 1.2 looks per game.

“Darius Bazley…may have stumbled into his most sustainable role with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on July 4. “Both teams used him predominantly as a 5, where his 6’8″ frame may seem a little small, but his combination of perimeter skills and athleticism can be a real weapon.”

Bazley is the third former first-round pick the Nets have added in free agency, joining Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV.

From Phoenix to Brooklyn

Bazley reunites with former Suns teammates Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson on an evolving Nets roster. Phoenix traded Bridges and Johnson to Brooklyn for Durant and TJ Warren at the trade deadline while also signing sharpshooter Yuta Watanabe in free agency this offseason.

But the Nets could return the favor with a seemingly innocuous tweet from Suns point guard Cameron Payne to Bridges – and Bridges’ subsequent response – piquing the interest of fans on the social media platform.

“Nooooooo….Turbo, say it ain’t so,” tweeted @bgmac1 on July 14. “Starting to look like the Brooklyn Suns if this keeps up.”

“Turbo gone,” said @BridgesDPOY in a quote tweet of Bridges’ reaction.

Payne, 28, averaged 10.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds this past season, and has shot 38.4% from deep over the last four years with the Suns. He is heading into the final year of a three-year, $19 million contract and there are rumblings he could be available for trade.

“Phoenix has continued to explore trade scenarios regarding reserve guard Cam Payne,” wrote Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on July 12.

Payne has also suited up for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers in his eight-year career.

Nets Waive Former Bench Spark

Brooklyn’s appetite for acquiring Payne could depend on how they would have to go about doing it. If it has to be a trade, Nets general manager Sean Marks could pass rather than potentially making the draft picks he received from them worse, especially given Smith, Walker, and Spencer Dinwiddie should all see minutes at point guard.

One player who won’t be around is Edmond Sumner.

“The Brooklyn Nets are expected to release Edmond Sumner,” tweeted Michael Scotto of Hoopsype on July 14. “Sumner was a spark plug off the bench averaging 7.1 points in 13.9 minutes last season. The 27-year-old guard is expected to have several potential suitors.”

Sumner’s departure leaves the Nets with 13 players under contract, all guaranteed, not including two-way players

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