As we continue the Draft Preview here at Denver Stiffs, we’ll take a look at a power forward / center who would have them leaning into defense once again, Adem Bona. He’s a solid chunk of 6’8 granite who has good footwork to go with massive strength and explosion. Can he shoot? No. Can he yam the ball down on anyone foolish enough to try to stop him going to the rack? Absolutely. Denver’s list of under-contract power forwards and non-Jokic centers right now goes Aaron Gordon and then tumbleweeds as far as players effective against size, and Bona can hold up his end when facing players both big and small. Can he help Denver’s reserves continue their defensive prowess or will he just contribute to the bench shooting woes? Let’s examine.

Adem Bona, Center, UCLA


Height (w/o shoes): 6 feet, 8.25 inches

Weight: 243 pounds

Wingspan: 7 feet, 3.75 inches

Age: 21 (03/28/2003)

Bona is stout, and while not the tallest big man he has a really long wingspan and the hops that allow him to challenge shots on even the biggest players. Bona tied for the highest standing-vert of the combine at 35 inches, while also getting the max vert overall for centers at 40 inches. He tested incredibly well at all the athletic events, really, showing off the athletic gift that make him an NBA threat.

College Statistics

2023/2024 Season Stats

26.5 12.4 5.9 1.2 1.1 45.4% 1.8 69.6% 6.5




Big man defense

Bona was the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year this past season. He is capable of playing at the level or hedging and not just playing drop coverages, as he can handle switching onto point guards and denying them their initial attempt at getting in the paint. He has quick hands for steals and is a brick wall even against true centers trying to back him down. He overplays some of these coverages, which gets him into foul trouble, but the skills are there for him to be a very successful multi-position defender in the NBA. Bona shuts down drives and can close out on kick-outs to the perimeter much faster than some of his fellow 5s. Much of his game is still raw and he relies on power more than savvy at this point, but he has so many tools to build a really skilled defensive big man out of.

Movement skills

Bona is one of the legion of international players who grew up playing soccer, so he has the nimble feet and quality movement of a smaller man. He has an excellent first step when driving the hoop, leaving slower-footed bigs in the dust, and jumping over smaller players for finishes. Paired with soft hands it means he catches well in traffic and finishes around or through most potential obstacles. His ability to drive the hoop actually punishes defenders for playing off of him because of his perceived shooting weaknesses. A couple of long strides puts him at the hoop from anywhere, so paint defenders really need to keep closer to him than you would think to minimize him attacking the rim. Any time Bona is heading for the rim it’s trouble for defenses, whether the ball is in his hand or coming from an alley oop attempt. That quality footwork also helps him guard on the perimeter, which is one reason his rebounds aren’t quite as good as you might expect for his length and explosiveness: UCLA had him set up high to handle either the screener or roller which kept him off the block for a some possessions a lesser big might find themselves near the rim for.

Improvement Areas


Bona does not shoot threes. He is probably never going to shoot threes. Anything past the free throw line is shark-infested waters for his game. His touch around the rim is really good, but that gives him more of a Clint Capela kind of upside profile where oops and dunks are the majority of his game, while stepbacks are rare sightings and threes do not exist in this dojo. That kind of player still has a place in the NBA – Capela has been doing it successfully for a decade – but it caps his contributions and requires him to hit his ceiling when it comes to defense and rebounding to be an impact contributor. He is already getting hacked when trying to put up second-chance boards to get him to the line, and while he wasn’t Capela-level bad he wasn’t great either. Improving his free throw shooting is a big deal for him to not be minimized as an offensive force.


Bona has the feet to get in the right position, but gets caught reaching or being too aggressive all too often still. His tendency to set moving screens causes him a lot of unnecessary whistles that will go away with a bit more dedication to the little details of where to set these screens on the floor and when to move. This was something Isaiah Hartenstein struggled with early in his career as well, finally getting it under control in New York. Fouls limited Bona’s college minutes-per-game to 26.5 per contest this year rather than the 30+ he should have had if he could stay on the floor early. If you think he can be coached out of this quickly it’s not a deal-breaker. If you think it will take a few years, then it’s hard to see Denver investing a pick in someone who can’t be relied on to stay out of foul trouble.

Mock Outcome (Nuggets draft 28th)

The Athletic: 38th

The Ringer: 52nd

Yahoo! Sports: 43rd


Adem Bona is a throwback, and how you feel about that probably plays a large part in his placement on draft boards. He is not a stretch 4. He is good on the boards but not a glutton for rebounds (yet). He is a competitor, though, and he spend the first couple years of his basketball career as a young teen playing against grown men internationally while still in high school. The physicality of the league will not scare him. He reminds of Denver Nuggets legend Nene, honestly – a guy who loved soccer but found he had the basketball skills to succeed at the highest levels. If this was the 2002 draft, Bona would go higher than the 30-45 selection he is likely to fall into, but it’s not as easy to convince people now to take those Nene or Zach Randolph style players.

But if you believe that Bona can be a defensive floor raiser who can make do as a play finisher while he figures out some other offensive moves, he’s got a place in the NBA. Is Denver that place? They already have a guy who is a versatile defender with a still-growing offensive skillset in Peyton Watson, and adding another makes it really hard to play both of them together if neither can score at any sort of range. Will his propensity for fouling make Malone’s quick hook come out and lead to him blossoming on another team as an athletic 5, like Hartenstein has?

In an ideal world, Bona can play the dunker spot next to Jokic for a few minutes to spell Aaron Gordon (he’s incredibly comfortable in that kind of role already) and then give some minutes as a havoc-wreaking athletic 5 off the bench. He is a strong big man who is unafraid of contact on either offense or defense. But that Achilles Heel of shooting has plagued the bench for years and Bona cannot help with that. His role is to provide boards, defense and dunks for whomever drafts him – any other bench issues are the responsibility of others to solve.