ORLANDO - The emergence of Orlando Magic 7-foot-2 forward Bol Bol is one of the NBA’s best stories so far this season.
Acquired by the Magic at the trade deadline last February from the Boston Celtics, Bol is finally healthy and getting substantial minutes. He’s played in all 17 of Orlando’s games thus far and is averaging 13.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
He has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games. In three of them, he eclipsed the 20-point mark, including on his 23rd birthday when he poured in a career-high 26 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Over each player’s last 10 games, Bol is the only one shooting 60-plus percent from the field and 50-plus percent from 3-point range with at least 75 overall shot attempts and 20 3-point tries.
“The more I play, the more I get comfortable,” he said. “I just needed reps. I feel like that’s just helping me. The game is slowing down for me, and I’m seeing a lot more stuff – offensively and defensively.”
There’s a lot to like about Bol’s skills. He’s multidimensional and quite unique. He plays more like a guard than a traditional big man. He has a great shooting touch from anywhere on the floor, often makes shots from awkward angles, has superb footwork and balance, and his handles are pretty good for someone his size.
On the other end of the floor, he has excellent timing and anticipation. Right now, he’s second in the league in total blocks with 34 of them. Only Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez has more.
His lack of speed does create some limitations, however. He rarely blows by defenders off the dribble, and he doesn’t possess much lateral quickness when guarding opponents in isolation on the perimeter.
What he plans to do going forward is be much more aggressive and seek ways to take further advantage of mismatches.
“When people pressure me a little bit, I kind of ease off,” he said. “I just need to stay in attack mode, and that’s something I need to keep in mind.”
While it’s still early in the season, Bol is a strong candidate for the Most Improved Player Award. Others right now also in that conversation include Utah’s Lauri Markkanen, OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter, and San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell.
Bol isn’t the only Magic player who has made tremendous strides this season. Second-year players Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs have taken big steps forward in their development as well.