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2021-22 Denver Nuggets Media Day Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Is Bol Bol ready for a breakout season?

Bol Bol has struggled to see the floor in prior seasons, can he get minutes this season?

Bol Bol 2020-21 per game statistics

Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Field Goal % Three-Point % Estimated Plus-Minus
32 5.0 2.2 0.8 0.2 43.1 37.5 -5.8

Overview

Few draft green room invites last until the second round, but Bol Bol was mong the few in the 2019 NBA Draft. He started his career in the 2019-20 season playing in the G-League for the Windy City Bulls. He showed flashes; however, this was before the Gold and he was still dealing with injury maintenance, so he never got the full development that the Nuggets wanted.

He came back to the Nuggets for the bubble where he showed flashes again, but he never received consistent playing time. He scarcely played in the playoffs, only touching the floor during garbage time in blowouts and the like. In 2020-21, he showed he could score, but not much else. He didn’t seem to show much effort on the defensive end or when he didn’t have the ball in his hand. It was almost a wasted season for Bol Bol.

Fast forward to this season: Bol will be getting ready for his third year in the league. Not much has changed with him as a player — he can still a turnstile on defense, and though he shows high level flashes as a scorer, he doesn’t really do anything else on offense. Not much of his situation has changed either, receiving scant playing time to truly develop and change his situation.

This preseason though, he has shown effort. It may be a low bar, but he’s finally showing that he’s engaged more on the defensive end, averaging 3.5 blocks per game through two games and putting in effort on the defensive glass. He’s still had slip-ups, but he hasn’t had as many of them. His off-ball scoring doesn’t seem to have improved much, but he remains comfortable on-ball. Many within the Nuggets organization have praised his efforts throughout training camp and preseason.

Will he back it up? Only time will tell.

Best Case for 2021-22

Bol Bol’s best case scenario would be proving he belongs in the NBA as more than a party trick. Right now he’s seen as a “two years away from being two years away” kind of guy. If he could prove valuable as a role player for a contending team though...it would skyrocket his value as a player.

His best case would be him playing his way into the rotation, over JaMychal Green or Jeff Green, to be the backup 4 or 5 in the rotation. He’d have to play hard on offense and defense, adding in 1 to 2 blocks per game and scoring efficiently in the time he receives, perhaps somewhere around 10 points per game off the bench.

He would learn to play alongside Nikola Jokic, improving his off-ball scoring and learning to cut to the basket and leveraging his size and athleticism. He’d learn how to take contact more effectively and be able to do more things near the basket on both sides of the court.

I don’t think that it’s realistic to expect such a leap from Bol, but it’s within possibility given his talented ceiling. Most likely, he will be better, but I don’t expect him to play much either. There’s just too many proven veterans in front of him for him to play in the rotation consistently in my opinion.

Worst Case for 2021-22

Bol Bol’s worst case scenario, his DEFCON 1 scenario, would be that he doesn’t play at the start of the season, then starts moping around and not giving effort in practice. Malone and Connelly try to find a way to get some value from him and find a trade mid-season. Perhaps the Nuggets don’t find a trade partner and are forced to waive Bol Bol. He would certainly be picked up by some team’s G-League affiliate at least, but it’s a long road back to the NBA at that point. He would struggle to generate buzz for the rest of the season by being out of sight. It would be a really tough place for Bol to be.

That’s far too bleak of a scenario for Bol, despite being possible if he doesn’t approach this season with a better mentality. He’s still a young player with high upside. Whether he finishes the year on the Nuggets roster or is traded to another team, he’ll (most likely) still have an NBA roster spot come the end of the year.

One Bold Prediction

Bol Bol will get an opportunity to play due to an injury and play well. The Nuggets will then accept a trade offer for Bol that they can’t pass up from a rebuilding team. Bol will then play well for that team since he gets the ball more.

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