• Matt Esposito

Bol Bol has Arrived at the Perfect Time

Recently, OTG Basketball profiled a bouncy Texas Longhorn named Jaxson Hayes and declared him a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Bol Bol, a behemoth of a man from the University of Oregon, looks to challenge Hayes as the best big man prospect in his class. While Hayes has all the tools to become a prototypical rim runner at the next level, Bol has a skill set more suited for today’s evolving game.

The son of shot-blocking legend Manute Bol, Bol Bol measures 7-foot-3 with a reported 7-foot-8 wingspan and a standing reach of 9-foot-7. That’s 7 inches longer than the standing reach of 3x NBA block leader Anthony Davis. It is Bol’s skill set, though, that impresses the most.

He may only have played nine games for the Ducks before suffering an injury, but Bol averaged 21 points per game on an efficient 57 percent on 2-point shots and a blazing 52 percent on 3-pointers! Moreover, he did this while taking 2.8 triples per outing. Considering he drains 75.7 percent of his free throws, Bol’s shooting touch seems to be legitimate.

So, what do we have so far? Bol is a lanky, rim-protecting floor spacer but a deeper look into the film hints that he can be much more than that. When coupled with his underrated vision, his fluidity while handling the ball intimates that Bol has untapped half-court potential.

Let’s begin by looking at his passing ability. Is Bol the next Nikola Jokic? -- absolutely not -- but he can pass out of double teams and find open teammates with crosscourt dishes, like he did versus a tough Houston Cougar defense. In fact, Bol frequently takes advantage of his height to see over defenders and hit teammates on the other side of the floor.

What is most encouraging about his vision is that it seems organic. Bol makes easy reads on offense, keeps the ball moving and displays some natural feel for the game on that end of the court. Check out this sly pass from Bol to a cutting teammate. Not all NBA centers are able to think one play ahead like he does. Furthermore, Bol can pass off of the dribble too.

The future first round pick dribbles with his head up and his teammates benefit from it; the defenders of Eastern Washington University learned that the hard way. During a baseline drive in which EWU thought they had Bol trapped, he still managed to spot a teammate slashing towards the hoop for an easy bucket. How many NBA centers can spin their way down the baseline while keeping their eyes up to make that kind of dish?

That’s a great segue into Bol’s ball-handling. Although he doesn’t have the skill of a guard, Bol has enough talent to lead a fastbreak. While I do not expect him to grab-and-go often on the next level, this transition handling helps determine Bol’s trajectory in half court sets. He has the handle to beat slower bigs to the paint or free up a jumper.

Look at this nifty inside-out dribble Bol displayed against San Diego. He darts toward the hoop and keeps the ball high to prevent his shot attempt from being blocked: this move directly translates to the NBA. Although it may look elementary, Bol’s ability to pump fake and take one dribble towards the rim before taking a 5-footer can be a go-to move. Being a shooting threat makes this all possible, as even the slightest of fakes gives him the space needed to attack the rim.

Although Bol has not shown the ability to perform eurosteps or hesitation moves, he can do more than line drive to the hoop. Particularly encouraging was a clip of Bol attacking a closeout to drain a mid-range pull-up. He can even dribble into rhythm before sinking a pull-up triple from NBA range. Sometimes Bol realizes that dribbling isn’t necessary: being a 7-footer has its advantages as Bol simply shoots over his defender in this enticing spot-up. His strengths mesh well with the modern game.

Despite being a soft screener, Bol still demonstrates excellent pick-and-pop potential. His footwork in preparation of perimeter jumpers is advanced for someone his size. For instance, watch Bol move behind the 3-point line after this pick and then smoothly can the trey. Although Bol does not dive to the rim often on pick and rolls, his length suggests he could become a lob threat with serious roll gravity.

The development of his offensive skill set aligns extremely well with the way the modern game is changing. Throughout this year’s postseason, lauded centers such as Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert have been on the receiving end of harsh criticism, as opponents target them in the pick and roll and mitigate their rim protection, leading some to question how much they should be played late in playoff games.

Make no mistake, Bol does not have the footspeed to survive pick and roll defense. Until he puts on weight, he will get bullied around as well. But Bol offers something the aforementioned rim runners do not. He can space the floor and potentially be used as a playmaking passer. What makes Bol’s inevitable pick and roll inefficiency tolerable will be his contributions on the other end of the floor. It may be a mere matter of time before teams prefer Brook Lopez to Steven Adams, but when they do Bol Bol and his ilk will be ready.

#NBA #NBADraft #2019NBADraft