It came in the middle of a podcast, and it surprised the hell out of Adam Mares, Brendan Vogt, and myself.
The three of us were in the middle of discussing how the Denver Nuggets were conserving their assets for the rest of the offseason, having not gone big game hunting in the draft for the first time in a long time, when out of left field, the Nuggets traded for the 44th overall pick to select Bol Bol of the University of Oregon.
The talented 7’2.5 center is more than just a tall dude. Measured with a 7’7 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine this year, Bol’s biggest asset is his combination of length and agility for his size. The center prospect has the height and wingspan to shoot over the defense and is surprisingly nimble, helping him project the rim.
Bol Bol displayed elite defensive timing around the rim at the University of Oregon, blocking 2.7 shots per game and posting a block rate of 12.4% in his 268 minutes played. Those numbers put him in line with players like Anthony Davis, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Nerlens Noel at the same age.
The numbers speak for themselves, and the shooting is no joke. Bol shot 13-25 on three-pointers at Oregon last season, and the 75.7 Free Throw percentage would seem to indicate that he has the touch to remain a strong shooter at the NBA level. The majority of Bol’s three-point attempts came in pick and pop situations, something the Nuggets are very familiar with in the Nikola Jokic led offense.
At and above the rim offense
Bol’s large frame and wingspan mask a bit of his athleticism, and as long as he’s healthy, Bol should be a threat to catch lob passes from anywhere on the floor. He has excellent timing on these catches as well as the standing reach to get the ball up above the rim quickly.
But what stands out when watching Bol is the immense touch he has around the rim. With the frame to generate easy shots for himself, Bol converts those looks with high efficiency. 57% from two-point range with the amount of shots he attempted and the role he had in his first nine games at Oregon was nothing to sneeze at, and that touch should translate to the next level.
This seems to be a fairly common trend with recent Denver Nuggets draftees. In 2015, Emmanuel Mudiay played a handful of games in China before sustaining an ankle injury. In 2016, Malik Beasley had a leg injury that dropped his stock out of the lottery. In 2018, Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt had injuries coming into the process. And now, in 2019, the Nuggets draft another player with medical red flags in Bol, who sustained a major foot injury early in his freshman season.
It’s notable that Bol said to the media that he’s fully healthy, but it would be up to the Nuggets training staff if he would be cleared for the upcoming regular season.
Media speaking to Bol Bol right now. Says that he may play next season but it’s up to the team how they want to handle his situation coming off of injury.— Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn) June 21, 2019
Look for the Nuggets to put him through the Michael Porter Jr. regimen until he’s 110% healthy.
It sounds like the Nuggets will let the training staff make an evaluation of him before making a formal decision.
Weight and Physicality
At 7’2.5 and weighing just 208 pounds at the 2019 draft combine, Bol has a very unique body type. He’s very skinny and will struggle to put on weight at the next level, especially after sustaining a foot injury.
I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t speak on the ability to add weight and strength while adding stress to a foot injury. I can’t imagine it’s an easy process though, and Nuggets fans should temper their immediate expectations of what Bol can contribute next season.
Like most freshman centers, Bol struggled with operating as the focal point of the offense and making smart decisions with the ball in his hands. Averaging just 1.0 assists compared to 2.0 turnovers during his nine college games, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bol needed some time to simplify his game and see the entire court before trying to expand upon his creation for others.
Among freshman to play at least 250 minutes and post a 12% block rate, Bol was 5th in Box Plus-Minus behind only Anthony Davis, Jaren Jackson Jr., Nerlens Noel, and Gorgui Dieng historically. The talent is there for Bol to make a unique impact in today’s NBA, and I’d expect the Nuggets to give him every opportunity to prove his worth...
But not this season. For now, Bol is a project. A player who could just as easily play 50% of his team’s games before falling out of the NBA due to health concerns. He could be the player comparable to those above him, a dynamic shot blocker and defensive presence with the offensive skills to be a two-way star. Denver must let him develop into that player though, get his body right, rather than hurry him back too soon.
In addition, the Nuggets currently have Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee ahead of him in the center rotation. Jokic is a superstar, entrenched as the Nuggets’ franchise player for seasons to come, and Plumlee has another year on his contract as one of the better backup centers in the NBA. Bol wouldn’t be good enough this season anyway to justify displacing Plumlee as the backup center, and he’s certainly not healthy enough to count on for 82 games.
But the Nuggets clearly have a type. They have selected dynamic talents that fell lower than anticipated due to health concerns. The Nuggets have confidence in their medical staff to help rehabilitate these kinds of players, and from the sound of it, that process has worked with Beasley, Porter, and Vanderbilt going forward.
The 44th overall pick is the time to take a chance, and the Nuggets love to swing for the fences. Bol Bol could be an absolute home run.