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FILM STUDY: Assessing Bol Bol’s Boom-or-Bust Potential

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NCAA Basketball: San Diego at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft isn’t a perfect science. The gap between the NCAA and the NBA is growing by the year and some players that may have been limited at the amateur level may blossom at the next. And, of course, vice versa.

There are many variables that go into using a pick and teams sort through them to find the very very few who are sure fire studs in the pros. Still, the Nets, with three picks in the top 31, have the ability to take some chances on some flawed prospects that present upside ... even if it doesn’t add up at the moment to the public.

You know... something like this.

Bol Bol might as well be the mystery man of this Draft. Talk about variables ... with his weight issues as well as his health issue, having spent a majority of his freshman year at Oregon healing from a stress fracture in his left foot. (The surgery was performed by Nets ankle/foot surgeon, Dr. Martin O’Malley),

Still, in his nine games at Oregon there was a lot to digest.

Bol will be one of the most unique prospects to enter the league in the past several years. Standing over 7’2” with a 7’7” wingspan, the son of former NBA player Manute isn’t your typical big man. Bol has a solid handle and is able to stroke it from three-point range. He figures to be a pick-and-pop threat at the next level with this natural touch from deep.

Bol’s mechanics aren’t perfect, his body contorts a bit to the side on his jumpers, but not many prospects have the best mechanics at this stage. According to The Stepien, Bol hit on 13 of his 19 three-point attempts from the NBA arc, all of which were assisted. In his nine games for Oregon, Bol showed an ability to be a dangerous spot-up threat with his size, but the small sample size must be noted as Bol played three teams that went to the NCAA Tournament and six mid-major programs. That being said, the 19-year-old did place in the 99th percentile on spot-up possessions, scoring 1.4 points per possession.

Looking further at Bol’s offense, though, you see that he still has a ways to go. Bol isn’t particularly good at changing direction and while he has a capable handle for someone his age, he isn’t able to blow by someone and get a comfortable shot off. On off-the-dribble jumpers this past season, Bol shot 2-of-11, showing he isn’t as comfortable creating a shot for himself on the wing. (Of course, critiquing a 7’2” player for his wing game tells you something as well.)

A lot of the issues for Bol stem from his lack of strength. As seen in the clip above, Bol may not have a clear path to the rim, but he doesn’t impose the physical will to initiate contact and draw a foul either. He ends up just getting knocked down and the ball is going the other way.

In this case, he catches a bit of a broken play and is unable to either stop and rise up for a close finish or get all the way to the rim. Bol ends up drawing a foul, but also nearly lost it on his way to the rim. The limited samples make each play a bit more magnified, so while he does posses a nice handle, moving downhill with the ball in his hands is a place where Bol must refine his game.

Similar to the play against Omaha, Bol sometimes just isn’t strong enough to get comfortable position and go up and finish.

Sometimes, the big fella will get that call, but that isn’t always going to happen and Bol needs to be more than capable handling a bit of contact going up for shots, especially from close range. At the next level, Bol is going to be even more tested with a slender frame that came in at 208 pounds at the combine (down from an announced 237 when he was playing in Eugene).

Bol’s late father was also thin for his size, 7’7.” He was listed at 201 pounds. Bol does have great touch around the rim, but if he can’t get good position, it won’t matter.

Bol’s screen setting ability is almost non-existent in video of his handful of games at Oregon. In the clip below, two Houston defenders are able to avoid nearly any contact at all with Bol as they stay with their man and Oregon ends up putting up a poor shot.

Bol’s lack of mass limits his ability to be a strong partner in the pick-and-roll. Even in the clip from the start of this piece, Bol did not make good contact with Payton Prichard’s man to open him up for a pick-and-roll. Bol does have great mobility for a player of his size to move downhill off of a screen, but smaller defenders have been able to stop him from getting comfortable in the paint.

Here, Bol doesn’t try to get all the way to the low block but does try to post up from the high post and operate. He is then pushed all the way out behind the three-point line because he doesn’t have the lower body strength to muscle his way into position. Bol then has to try and create from beyond the three and ends up turning the ball over. That being said, when Bol is able to post up down low, he has shown a deft touch around the rim and able to finish at will.

Bol does draw a smaller man in transition, but he also gets the attention of three Iowa defenders. Bol likes turning over his left shoulder in the post and finishing over the top with his right, as seen here. According to Synergy, Bol shot 11-of-13 on these types of shots. It’s a tough finish but again his natural touch really stands out from the rim to the three-point line. If he is able to improve his strength and be able to become more consistent of a post-up threat, he has a path to becoming an efficient scorer in the NBA.

The issue with the big man’s game is that he is not very active at his stage of his career. Despite having a usage rate of over 33% in his short campaign in Eugene, Bol meanders around the three-point line often or will have his back to the basket waiting for the ball in the high post. At times, he is simply looking for the ball to create offense himself – which is fine to an extent considering how gifted he is on the offensive end – but that sometimes clogs the offense. This may not be the case in the league considering the floor will be more and better spaced and Bol will be groomed for a featured role at some point. So he won’t be be a primary target to start his career/

Watch below, Bol is setting a screen but he isn’t really committing to running all the way or moving parallel with teammate Will Richardson. He’ll need to be more decisive because in the league bringing a free man onto the ball handler and stopping the action early is crucial.

Bol can benefit from playing withgreat passers and a motion offense, not isolations. This was a quick hitter from the Houston game that can work as a stronger player can get Bol a first step on his defender. He has nice hands and is able to get to the rim fast, using him in this role may ease him into the next level.

What about the big man’s defense? It’s a mixed bag of sorts because Bol’s incredible length makes him an absolute destructive weak side blocker. Bol can get to nearly anything going up towards the rim and has good instincts onto timing the block. This is what Bol can be in the NBA. It’s downright frightening if he is healthy and able to do this semi frequently.

Bol’s will be able to get a hand on a ton for his team but who he defends will be an interesting decision for the team that drafts him. Bol’s frame is too thin (yet) to bang down low with big men and he doesn’t have the foot speed to stay on his man on the perimeter. It will be a work-in-progress to figure out where Bol fits in at the next level as he will probably spend the early part of his career getting picked on in the pick-and-roll until he learns the pro game’s nuances.

There have been many questions from draft pundits about Bol’s motor, especially on the defensive end. Bol is gifted with his size, but sometimes doesn’t work hard enough and depends only on that gift. Watch the below two clips where he is beat for offensive rebounds by severely smaller players.

Bol doesn’t have an explosive jump by any means, and while at times he can get away with high pointing the ball and using his reach to snag it, other times, it leads to second chances for the opposition. Also, he’ll lose his man when the shot goes up at times leading to easy second chance opportunities. Bol has his pros and cons, but as he enters the NBA, he must become more aware on the glass. He can be an effective rebounder but has to be more consistent when approaching that part of his game.

Making many assumptions about Bol’s defense is a bit difficult based on the sample size at Oregon. Oregon plays a match-up zone so Bol’s “man” filters in and out of the paint as the game moves so it’s tough to see him in particular pick-and-roll coverages or anything too high above the paint. What we can tell is that while he is a sound shot blocker with the ability to alter plays at the rim ... and the three-point line, his energy level isn’t always consistently high.

In terms of the injury, there is an inherent risk in taking a player with Bol’s foot injury and expecting a lengthy career out of him. Brook Lopez is the classic case of a player with recurring foot injuries (and five surgical procedures), who has still been productive and just had a fantastic year for Milwaukee. Brooklyn has taken chances on players with injury issues before such as Caris LeVert, who also underwent foot surgery by Dr. O’Malley and is now a franchise cornerstone. The franchise does not seem to be scared of taking a chance on a player like Bol, but based on what we’ve seen (and not seen, like his medical records), its’ hard to determine how big of a risk it will be.

While the Nets do need front court help, this seems to be riskier than any other endeavor that the Nets have ventured into in the Markinson era. The boom-or-bust scenario works for teams trying to hit on gold in the lottery, but is Bol —as is— a top 20 player in this Draft if he fully recovers from his foot surgery? On the other hand, before he got hurt, Bol was seen as a top 5 pick.

The Nets are now a playoff team and are attempting to sustain that level of play. While Bol may be able to space the floor for Brooklyn and open up the paint for guards to penetrate, his lack of awareness and inability to change direction — as well as his poor screen-setting —can stunt the Nets motion offense which is about cutting and off-ball screens.

This would be seen as a high upside pick that the Nets can take a shot on with three picks in this year’s Draft. If they aren’t satisfied with the board, they can opt for the Oregon product. There is no denying the potential of Bol as his skill set at his size is mirrored by very few, but there are some glaring flaws that stick out in his game. We’ll see if he can grow out of them.