The first minutes in the NBA for Bol Bol may finally be within reach of his 7-foot-9-inch wingspan as the Denver Nuggets continue to prepare for the season to restart in Orlando.
“He is extremely talented and skilled,” head coach Michael Malone said in an interview with the media yesterday. “You cannot teach 7-foot-2-inch, you cannot teach a 7-foot-9-inch wingspan, and the soft touch that he has. He’s getting stronger, he’s getting healthier, and right now it’s good to see him compete against some of the other players that we have down here. To see Bol out there playing and doing things a lot of people can’t do is really remarkable.”
Bol Bol hasn’t played for the Denver Nuggets this season, having spent time with the Windy City Bulls in the G-League after recovering from a broken foot that he suffered during his only season at the University of Oregon. In eight games this season, Bol averaged 12 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 19 minutes per game. While he only had limited run with the Bulls, he was able to show off the talent that made him a potential first-round pick before he suffered his injury, blocking shots, knocking down 3-pointers, and using his length to snare rebounds on both ends of the court. With his ability to stretch the floor on offense as a shooter, where he shot 52-percent on 2.8 3-point attempts per game in college, he could fill the role of a modern day floor spacing big, in the mold of a Kristaps Porzingis or Brook Lopez.
“He’s special and super talented,” Nuggets center Mason Plumlee said in an interview with the media yesterday. “I can speak to certain skills that he has, but he’s a welcomed addition. He’s had a great attitude from the time that we had back in Denver and then back down here.”
The Nuggets are hoping that their All-Star center, Nikola Jokic, will be able to regain his game shape after dealing with the long break and having tested positive for COVID-19. They signed a former Nuggets Summer League big in Tyler Cook to a two-way contract, giving the coaching staff another experienced big to potentially deploy in the seeding games before the playoffs start. With Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, and Paul Millsap on the roster, there’s a ton of depth in front of Bol to get minutes if they’re available.
But that doesn’t mean that Bol can’t get minutes. His invitation to Orlando and involvement in team practices is likely more a result of the coaching staff wanting to see how he plays against other NBA-caliber bigs. The most important thing for his development is to play actual minutes in games — these practices are the next-best available option for him right now.
Life for Bol in the bubble is likely safer than where he would be if he was outside the bubble. This gives him an opportunity to strengthen his relationship with his teammates, learn the playbook, and see the best players in the league compete against each other. If the only time he gets on the court is to give high-fives with his nearly 8-foot long wingspan, that’s better than not being part of the team.
If he does play, I’d expect it to come at the end of the seeding games, against either the Lakers or the Clippers. By then, the seeding for the top seeds will likely already be settled, and the most important outcome of those games is having all the playoff rotation players come out healthy. Personally, I’d hate to see the Nuggets crack the seal on his rookie season in the final two games, but I don’t make any decisions for the franchise and have no real insights as to their decision making processes.
Anyways, here’s footage of Bol Bol knocking down a turnaround jumper. Get excited for next season, because it looks as wet as the bottom of the Chatfield Reservoir.