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Roundtable: BasketBol is alive and well

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Stiffs writers join together to discuss Bol Bol’s debut and the Nuggets first scrimmage.

Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

What did you think of Bol Bol’s debut?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): It was everything Nuggets fans could have dreamed of and more. The key thing will be to not overreact to one solid game, in a scrimmage format, against a pretty bad team, but how can you not get excited about what Bol did yesterday?

The thing that really stood out to me was the rim protection that Bol could potentially give the Nuggets. I can’t remember the last time Denver had such a dominating presence in the middle that can affect shots like what Bol gives them. Add the scoring and play making ability on top of that, it might be hard to keep this guy off the floor moving forward.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): That debut was literally everything that we could have hoped for. We saw him handling the ball in the open floor. He was successful shooting from inside and outside, playing off of Nikola Jokic, and he was putting in some work on the defensive end with six blocks in 29 minutes. You have to take it with a grain of salt in an exhibition game after four months with no games, but it was extremely encouraging to see.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Bol Bol’s debut was spectacular, not necessarily because he will grow to be a fantastic player, but because he showcased all of the skills and tools a unicorn big man needs to be most effective. Elite shot blocking? Check. Deep three point shooting? Check? Athleticism in the open floor? Check. He won’t accumulate six blocks every game, but the number of shots he influenced due to Wizards players being scared to challenge him at the rim was surprising. He’s a rookie! He’s barely 200 pounds! Doesn’t matter though. Bol Bol showed up, and Nuggets fans SHOULD be excited.

Daniel Lewis: I think he had a great exhibition game against the Wizards. I’m treating most of these games as Orlando Summer League games, and the most important thing to look for in those games is skills, not roles. The Nuggets had a weird huge lineup, and ran basic defensive schemes. What was encouraging is that Bol still managed to stand out. There’s a long list of things he needs to improve upon before I trust him in an actual NBA game, but he was successful in his first opportunity.

Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Do you think Bol will get consistent minutes when the games start to count in August?

Ewing: I would love to say yes, but I think it will boil down to where the Nuggets roster stands. Yesterday, the Nuggets only had eight players to choose from, but when they play August 1st against Miami, their entire roster should be available for Michael Malone to choose from.

The thing Bol has going in his favor is that rim protection, which is something the Nuggets second unit could desperately use. It will be interesting to see the battle between Mason Plumlee and Bol for those minutes and I think we could get some clarity as these scrimmages roll on.

Bridgford: The optimist in me wants to say yes, but the realist in me says it will all come down to how well he plays on defense when these minutes start to matter. We’ve seen Michael Porter Jr. play lights-out on offense this year, but his minutes are sporadic because his defensive skill is lacking. If Bol can keep his offensive production there along with being a positive on defense, I don’t see how you can keep the mismatch that he presents off the floor.

Blackburn: There’s a stronger possibility here than people think. To be clear, it’s unlikely. In the minutes that Nikola Jokic doesn’t play, the Nuggets will rely heavily on Mason Plumlee to anchor the team on both ends. They will also have smaller options in Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant to utilize. Despite that, Bol offers Denver’s defense with an alternative style of play: no other Nugget can anchor the middle of a man or zone defense quite like Bol projects to at 7’2. It’s possible that he just isn’t ready, but if the Nuggets are getting killed inside repeatedly while Jokic is on the bench, they might look to change things up.

Lewis: Nope. He’s moved ahead of Tyler Cook on the big depth chart, but I still think they’ll want to give Noah Vonleh minutes before Bol. I do think he’ll get minutes towards the end of the “regular season,” when the seeding has already been determined and the outcome of the games won’t matter. I would hope he gets extra minutes in those games, because he needs to get that experience so he can continue to develop.

Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Were you impressed with how the Nuggets played in their first scrimmage considering how short handed they were?

Ewing: I was impressed not only because they were shorthanded, but it was all these guys first official game in over four months. Nikola Jokic looked a little rusty with the turnovers, but still played really solid. Then you add in Bol Bol, Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and pretty much anyone who played in a white jersey yesterday, they all played fantastic.

Bridgford: I was impressed, but I think that goes to how well they are coached. Malone coaches this team to play fundamental team basketball, and he makes sure the guys on the floor can fit all of the roles that they need. With only seven guys, you have to manage your rotations well, and he has no problem pulling anyone to make sure they stay fresh for the entirety of a game. I know we’ll see the rotation expand with more players healthy and ready, but short-handed games really tell you what you have deep on your bench when emergencies hit.

Blackburn: The Nuggets as a whole were fine. There was rust, and some turnovers were to be expected. I actually expected Jokic’s decision making to be a little more crisp, and Mason Plumlee did not play well on the offensive end in his role. I was expecting a little more from him, as well as more dynamic play from Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant. Given the circumstances, it’s not a big deal. None of those guys are used to playing with each other. Troy Daniels was brought in to do exactly what he did, and I thought Tyler Cook impressed under the surface.

Lewis: There was a lot of ugly basketball, with lineups that hadn’t played together in games before yesterday being on the court. The Nuggets had the best player on the court in nearly every situation, so I’m not surprised that they won. That’s a bad Wizards team.