2019 NBA Draft: Bol Bol isn’t just good, he’s good good

NBA Draft Oregon Bol Bol (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NBA Draft Oregon Bol Bol (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

While most of the nation’s focus heading into the 2019 NBA Draft centers around Duke’s collegiate superstars, Bol Bol is patiently waiting to destroy your expectations

Zion Williamson has been the superstar of the college basketball season, and for good reason. He has led Duke to a top-5 standing while putting up absurd statistics. While he resembles various stars of the past, such as Charles Barkley, Zion truly plays in a way that nobody has ever seen. He is basically the Hulk without the uncontrollable rage and side profession as a physicist. Instead of his body tearing apart shirts, his shoes explode when hitting the ground too hard.

RJ Barrett, Zion’s teammate at Duke, and Ja Morant have received widespread praise as well, both typically ranking in the top 3 of most mock drafts. After these three players, though, many believe the draft severely drops off in star talent. This perception has led to a league-wide epidemic in tanking in hopes of obtaining a top 3 pick, even including the LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers in the vast pool of perpetual losers as the season comes to an end.

However, most NBA Draft writers are wrongfully overlooking one of the best center prospects in the past decade: Bol Bol.

The Oregon Ducks center, and son of former NBA big man Manute Bol, went down with a season-ending navicular fracture in his left foot after playing only nine games. After reported deliberation with his family, Bol decided to end his season early to physically rehab ahead of the draft. Below is the tweet he posted when relaying the news to the public.


This injury is certainly not a factor to simply disregard, especially because of Bol’s insane height and slim build. The fracture will require focused rehab and training to properly heal, but should not be an injury that ends his career or diminishes his potential in a significant manner. Despite this, he has effectively slid down most draft projections, as he currently resides in the latter half of the lottery.

In Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft, Bol Bol is slotted at pick 10. This is typically where he projects on most draft boards, but in a CBS Sports Mock Draft published on March 8, he resides as the eventual 19th pick in the draft.

Personally, the consensus around Bol has been utterly befuddling, and I believe the media needs to drastically shift its focus when evaluating the young center. The trend has been to point out his slim build, occasionally awkward footwork, and season-ending injury when justifying his ranking.

Yet, if this were the approach taken when scouting every other prospect, much more attention would center around Zion’s questionable jumper, Barrett’s average ball-handling, and Morant’s funky shooting technique. But this hasn’t been the case because scouting in this way is undeniably lazy and doesn’t paint a realistic picture of a prospect’s game. It is imperative not to ignore what a prospect CAN do when evaluating their overall ability, which is where Bol’s limitless potential lies.

To start, it is crucial to take note of Bol Bol’s insane physical intangibles. He stands at a towering 7-foot-3 in shoes and possesses a 7-foot-8 wingspan, according to measurements recorded by USA Basketball. This is almost the same exact measurement as Rudy Gobert, who has a 7-foot-8.5 wingspan and is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. In addition to his strikingly rare physical traits, Bol Bol is only 19 years old and can likely mature physically with NBA training regimens. His father, Manute Bol, is the tallest player to ever play in the NBA  at 7-foot-7, so it is reasonable to imagine his son even growing an inch or two taller.

While Bol’s height alone doesn’t solidify him as a potential defensive phenom, his agility, quick hands, and defensive anticipation do. His block percentage was 12.4% in his nine games as a Duck, which eerily resembles former Texas big man Myles Turner during his lone college season (12.3%). Bol is exceptional at going up vertically when contesting layups and jumpers, as exhibited through his mere 2.2 personal fouls committed per 40 minutes. When a player has a figure similar to those inflatable dancing men you see at tacky car dealerships when getting off the freeway, they should be able to block a good number of shots.

However, many tantilizing prospects are never able to translate their innate physical gifts to elite rim protection. This isn’t the case for Bol though, as he averaged 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes, combining his rare frame with impeccable timing and quick hands.

Bol Bol’s natural shooting motion and success from 3 will definitely translate to the NBA as well. Few centers can legitimately fade out of a pick-and-roll and knock down a spot-up triple, but Bol will immediately exist in this rare group once drafted. During his brief nine-game tenure, he made an unfathomable 52 percent of his 3’s while shooting 2.8 attempts a game. Sure, knocking down half of his NBA 3’s is unrealistic for Bol, but slotting him in as a go-to shooter is not.

He is very smooth and advanced in his footwork when spotting up, gracefully leading himself into jumpers with a traditional 1-2 step. Unlike other centers, who take an eternity to wind up before getting their shot off, Bol has a very quick release. Almost every single attempt of his ends with a follow through, which is just the cherry on top of a top-notch shooter.

What if he gets chased off the arch by a recovering defender? Well, Bol has a counter for this scenario as well. He has displayed a supremely unique ability to not only threaten defenses behind the arch but also pull-up off the dribble when opponents close out on him. His ball-handling ability is mind-boggling to witness, especially for his gargantuan size. Even most wings struggle with dribble pull-ups when they are forced off the 3-point line, but Bol is immensely fluid in this aspect of his game.

Besides Karl-Anthony Towns, there may not be another NBA center with a similar ability to shoot as efficiently off the dribble. This skill will be emphasized even more so with the increased spacing at the next level.

While Bol Bol will undoubtedly have to add strength in order to optimize his post up potential, the requisite skills are already evident in his game. First off, his length permits him to effectively rise over most defenders without much of a contest at all. The dude was treating D1 athletes as if they were all his younger brothers desperately attempting to affect his shot during a backyard one-on-one game. This is how supremely tall Bol is, and with his innate touch around the basket, you can expect him to take advantage of switches at the next level as soon as he enters the league.

Due to the NBA’s rise in 3-pointers and an increased emphasis on analytics, the league has essentially abandoned the practice of consistently feeding the post. However, an advanced skill set down low can still give your team an edge in the playoffs when defensive intensity and switching increases. Bol’s array of moves in the post will almost be impossible to defend when he gains enough strength to consistently hold his own on the block. But even with his clear limitations in strength, he nonetheless averaged an impressive 57 percent from 2-point range. Many of these shots were contested fadeaway jumpers, which is an incredible skill to take to the next level if you’re able to master the art form.

All this being said, Bol Bol is far from a finished product. His recent left foot injury and slim build are definitely concerning in the short term, but these are not unsolvable issues. With professional training and rehab, Bol should be able to effectively add lean muscle mass while simultaneously recovering from his injury.

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It is truly absurd how these flaws in Bol Bol’s game have been overly harped on when evaluating his potential. The 19-year-old prodigy is a flamethrower from 3, defensive anchor down low, and potential go-to scorer in the post. He runs the floor at an insane speed for his height and possesses unnaturally quick hands. His father played in the NBA for years, so he likely is familiar with the varying nuances of the profession. Oh, I almost forgot that he also dribbles like a wing and pulls-up for jumpers with a smooth, beautiful release.

But sure, let’s just ignore all of these rare qualities and focus on how skinny he is instead.