Denver Nuggets Season Preview: How Bol Bol can develop his game

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

The Denver Nuggets are relying on continuity and internal player development to fuel another successful season in 2019-20, and with good reason. Last year, all of the team’s key young players took positive steps in their evolution, which allowed Denver to thrive throughout the course of the grueling regular season.

Heading into the upcoming season, there may be a few new faces in the rotation in the form of Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr., but one other key addition on the team will spend the majority of the season in the G League.

After falling in the 2019 Draft, Bol Bol was selected with the 44th pick in the second round after Denver traded into the draft to select the talented big man.

Bol is the son of Manute Bol, who played 12 seasons in the NBA and led the league in blocks per game on two occasions. While Manute stood at 7’7”, Bol comes in at 7’2” with a 7’7” wingspan. That size allows him to be a force around the rim defensively, but he also possesses some unique skills on the offensive end of the floor.

Although it was in a limited sample size of just nine games at the University of Oregon, Bol created highlight-worthy plays on a regular basis. The 19-year-old big man averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. A key aspect of Bol’s offensive game that makes him stick out is his ability to stretch the floor and knock down 3-pointers, as he connected on 52 percent from beyond the arc in college.

Bol’s most ready skills are his shot blocking and 3-point shooting. Not only did Bol average 2.7 blocks per game (3.6 per-40 minutes) at Oregon, he also had four blocks in four of the nine collegiate games he played in. His length allows him to block jump shots when guarding out on the perimeter, while he is a natural rim protector given his stature.

However, as is usually the case with strong rim protectors, Bol’s size and wingspan deters guards from driving toward the rim. Given Bol’s overwhelming presence in the paint, he can scare opposing guards and wings into taking difficult, contested mid-range jumpers. Finally, Bol’s college film highlighted an impressive ability to move his feet out on the perimeter, which has become a more important skill for centers in today’s NBA.

Offensively, Bol’s ability to stretch his game out beyond the arc could do wonders for Denver’s offense. Although he has shown the ability to handle the ball and initiate the offense in transition, Bol is looking to improve his passing moving forward.

“Towards the end of the season, I started watching a lot of Jokic highlights because of his great passing ability, and that's something I want to add to my game,” Bol said after being drafted. “I watched a lot of his highlights and he's a great, great player.”

On the court, passing and post moves will benefit Bol offensively, while further strength will aid him in guarding opposing centers on a regular basis. Few big men enter the NBA with the skill set that Bol possesses, and now the focus shifts to preparing his body for the grind of an NBA regular season.

By adding strength and some more variation in his offensive game, Bol projects to be one of the most unique players in the NBA given his existing style of play. With Denver already boasting quality frontcourt depth, there will be no pressure on Bol to contribute in the 2019-20 season.

Like Michael Porter Jr., Bol can take his time to recover from a previous foot injury and then focus on developing his game and body in the G League. The 45 days Bol will be able to spend with the Nuggets should also help him get adjusted to life as a professional athlete. For the second year in a row, the Nuggets drafted a player that slipped in the draft due to injury concerns. The potential is certainly there for Bol and he will receive ample opportunities to grow this season.

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