As part of Denver Stiffs’ transition from Denver Nuggets postseason coverage to offseason coverage, staff members will be conducting End of Season Reviews for all 17 players on the roster. There will continue to be news, NBA draft, free agency, and trade articles, but over the next three weeks, an accompanying End of Season review (or two) will also post every week day.
Today’s review: Bol Bol
During the 2019 NBA draft, fans of the Nuggets didn’t have much to look forward to. They had already traded their first and second-round picks, and it wasn’t as if they had a ton of wiggle room on the cap to swing any big trades. The roster was locked in as far as the rotation went, and any draft-day trades would just be additional depth that likely wouldn’t play.
This team wasn’t going to trade for any first-round picks, and, late in the second round, you’re just looking for high-upside lottery picks. As the draft wore on, there was one massive lottery ticket that was sliding down the board. Oregon’s 7’2” center Bol Bol was falling over concerns of his foot injury that had cut his freshman season short.
Bol didn’t contribute during the season, but he did show some potential when they had entered the bubble.
As I said, Bol had next-to-no contributions during the regular season, and, if it weren’t for the bubble games giving him extra rehab time combined with injuries in the frontcourt, he never would have seen the floor. However, when he did see the floor, the play did show some signs of what made him a rumored top-10 pick. The hope was that he could provide some shooting off the bench while being a decent rim-protector, and that’s exactly what he brought.
The main thing that Bol brings over the rest of the Nuggets’ rotation is true versatility. While guys like Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee were isolated to working inside the 3-point line, Bol could shoot from outside or drive to the rim when you go for the shot fake. He also has the length to just be an absolute menace at the rim and on the defensive end of the floor in general.
Using his stats from the seven bubble games, he had 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes mark. He was getting to shots at the rim, but he was blocking 3-point shooters that he had no right getting to. Moving forward, the expectation is that Bol will be the backup center, but it will be interesting to see if that actually occurs. Plumlee is a free agent this offseason, and they don’t have a ton of money laying around. Having a 3-point shooting center that can handle the ball and block shots would make Bol arguably the most valuable 44th pick in a while.
Season Grade: B-
I want to give Bol a better grade than this, but I just can’t do it. I was very close to giving him a not applicable because of the low minutes that he played, and he only played blowout minutes in the playoffs. I just thought that wouldn’t be very fun to do, so we’re getting him in with a B-. He was everything that the Nuggets were hoping he could be. His shot translated to the league, and he was able to handle the ball. He still needs to grow as a player, but there is potential there.
Bol never played any meaningful minutes for this roster, and he was going against backups a fair bit of the time. While some would call his minutes unimportant, it was important to see that he could take the floor and play. Similar to Michael Porter Jr. in his rookie season, he was never going to be a major contributor in his rookie season, but it was great for him to get healthy and get on the floor.
Season Highlight: Debut against the Washington Wizards
After sitting on the shelf for a year-and-a-half, Bol was finally able to get on the floor. When he finally got out there, he wasn’t extremely efficient or flawless with the ball, but he showed that he can make plays. He was taking shots from deep while being a playmaker on the floor. He finished with a double-double on the night, and he lead the team in plus/minus, blocks, rebounds while being tied for second in points.
What’s next for Bol Bol
Unless Denver chooses to use their limited assets to add a backup center this offseason, Bol is going to be the number two in this rotation. The team will likely have to dramatically alter how they run those second units because Bol is a big deviation off of what Plumlee has been able to give them during his time with the group. While Plumlee has been a solid player, Bol truly elevates the bench unit’s ceiling.
This will be some big shoes to fill. Plumlee has played right around 20 points per night since he joined the Nuggets, and those minutes are still going to be there. If Bol can come in at the start of next season to show that he fill that role effectively, this team will be able to hit the ground running more than most teams that will likely see more roster turnover this offseason.
As long as Jokic is in the fold, it’s unclear if Bol will ever be playing minutes as a starter, unless they elect to run an ultra-big lineup with Bol at the power forward spot. His shooting fits well with Jokic, and he can help alleviate a lot of the work around the rim that Jokic has struggled with during his career. Bol isn’t a perfect prospect, but he showed this year that he has the potential to develop into a strong player during his career.