What Bol Bol can add to the Denver Nuggets
Despite entering the 2019 NBA Draft without a pick, the Denver Nuggets ended the night with another notable addition to their roster, this time in the form of Bol Bol. 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.
Bol entered the 2019 draft after playing in just nine games during his freshman season at the University of Oregon. Before suffering a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot, Bol was dominant on both ends of the floor. 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 is his ability to stretch the floor and knock down 3-pointers, as he connected on 52 percent from beyond the arc at Oregon.
"My game is pretty unique because for my size, I can dribble pretty well, can shoot from anywhere pretty well, and my passing is pretty good,” Bol said after being drafted. “I can just do a lot of things that people my size can't do."
Before (and during the early stages of) the 2018-19 college season began, Bol was projected to go in the top 10 of the draft based on his size and tantalizing skill set. Even after he suffered the foot injury, Bol was projected to be taken in the top 20 picks of the draft. However, teams appeared to be wary of Bol’s medicals, which led to him slipping to the middle of the second round. Ultimately, Denver saw an opportunity to once again take a chance on a player with an intriguing game and a lot of potential.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley spoke highly of Bol’s potential, saying “His upside is incredible. He's a 7'2½" center who's comfortable creating off the dribble and competent from beyond the arc (13-of-25 from deep at Oregon). He could be a scoring threat from inside and out, plus an impact defender if for no other reason than his hawkish 7'7" wingspan.”
Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly revealed that the team was high on Bol’s unique skills and began to focus on acquiring a pick to select the big man.
“We're not concerned as to why he fell; we feel very fortunate that he fell (to us),” Connelly said. “As the night progressed, we got pretty aggressive. He was a guy that we circled much higher on the board. We didn't have him where we picked, we had him much, much higher.”
What exactly are the Nuggets getting in Bol? Let’s take a closer look at his skill set and what the young center can bring to the Nuggets.
Bol immediately sticks out as a result of his height and wingspan, which allows him to defend the rim and intimidate opponents from driving to the paint. Not only did Bol average 2.7 blocks per game (3.6 per-40 minutes), 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, Bol’s block totals don’t sufficiently showcase his defensive potential. Because of Bol’s size and defensive awareness, opposing guards are often hesitant to drive towards the rim when Bol is in the paint. Additionally, Bol is able to move his feet well enough to force opposing guards to overthink on the perimeter.
In a November game against Syracuse University, Bol showcased his abilities on both ends of the floor. Most notably, Bol had several key blocks and defensive reactions that threw off Syracuse’s offense.
Varied offensive game
Even with Bol’s defensive potential, the most intriguing aspect of Bol’s game is his versatility on offense. As mentioned earlier, Bol is able to stretch his game beyond the 3-point line, which will provide spacing for his Nuggets teammates. In a game against Texas Southern University in November, Bol showcased his full offensive arsenal in a 32-point performance that included four 3-pointers.
Bol scored in the post, from the mid-range and from three in the dominating performance. Given Bol’s size, his ability to dribble the ball and shoot from the perimeter makes him a tough cover for any opposing big man.
An area Bol is looking to improve in is his passing. Well, luckily enough Bol has landed on the Nuggets and will be able to learn from Nikola Jokić, arguably the best passing big man in league history. In fact, Bol has already begun the process to improve his playmaking.
“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. I watched a lot of his highlights and he's a great, great player.”
With the NBA continuing to emphasize the 3-pointer, big men across the league are beginning to stretch their offensive games out to the perimeter.
“He can shoot, he can handle. He was one of the top players in his high school class,” Connelly said following the draft. “I think with his length and ability to protect the rim and stretch the floor, it's a pretty rare combination.”
After being drafted, Bol said he is 100 percent healthy and returned to the court last month to go through individual workouts. Although he has yet to participate in five-on-five workouts, Bol said he will be ready to play in the 2019-20 season, if the team decides that it is in his best interest.
After drafting Michael Porter Jr. 14th overall in the 2018 draft, the Nuggets are certainly used to selecting players with high potential that come with injury histories.
“There were injury concerns, you heard that last year [with Michael Porter Jr.],” Connelly said. “We felt very confident with the physical. I think he's done a great job of rehabbing since the foot injury.”
One thing is for sure, the Nuggets have added another multitalented top prospect to their growing young core of players. Given Bol’s skill set and pre-draft projections, the Nuggets jumped on the opportunity to add one of the most unique big men in the history of college basketball to their roster and will now look to implement a plan to develop Bol as the team looks to contend in the Western Conference.
“We're fortunate to add another young piece, a guy we think highly of,” Connelly said. “We think his skillset [and] his pedigree, who he is as a guy, will fit in well in the locker room. We started the night with no draft picks and we left with a guy who we think has a real chance to be impactful down the road.”