Now that both the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline has gone the way of the dinosaurs, as well as the ping pong balls of fate falling into place, there’s far more clarity with how gurus can start putting together mock drafts.
In this specific class, in my opinion at least, there’s varying tiers with monster gaps between them, making it a prime year to take flyers on flawed players.
It’s relative, though. A boom-or-bust prospect is only as valuable as whenever he ends up selected. Placing RJ Barrett, who has both flaws and obvious positives, into such a category isn’t exactly the conversation on deck. A player of his caliber, a projected top five pick, isn’t exactly an all or nothing proposition for NBA franchises.
Likewise, selecting this brand of player isn’t worth the risk in the top 10. The theoretical value is in finding it within the confines of the risk, which is at an increased and better appropriated hit-miss margin with less daring expectations placed on the talent. After all, no one screams about firing a general manager for failing to hit with the 12th overall pick. But if that same GM pulls a rabbit out of his hat, and hits, he’s a hero who will be celebrated as if he put a human on Mars.
Moneyball-ish, if only in theory, it’s the players who have a damaged floor, but also have the qualities teams are desperate to find in the modern NBA. Even more bluntly, it’s the prospects who can dazzle scouts with YouTube videos to the point of instant salivation being forced onto the horizon; though the same kind of talent could end up an afterthought in a handful of years.
For every Malachi Richardson and Mitch McGary we easily talk ourselves into for whatever the reason, despite ample evidence screaming for people to take vital information under advisement, there’s a Jarrett Allen or Pascal Siakam who slip through the cracks due to the fear of the unknown — whether that be a lack of quality competition or a proper sample-size of data to work from.
We’re going to take a gander at one prospect who is deservedly polarizing among draft gurus; Oregon Ducks center Bol Bol. The all or nothing type. Before getting to him, this entire piece needs further prefacing. A summarized description as to how I view the 2019 NBA Draft class, if only to add transparency to this process.
Like nearly every other soul with a keyboard, Zion Williamson is obviously in his own tier. After that, though, it’s my belief Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are in a second tier, with every other lottery prospect being mostly interchangeable, as I do (still) buy the popular notion of this group being the weakest in years. And we’re not talking merely weak at the top, but deep with role guys. Nope. Rather, it’s just weak. A class full of prospects who in traditional years wouldn’t be lottery picks, and those outside of the top 14 would likely fail to land in the first round.
Of course, there’s exceptions here and there. Not to mention the obvious, little acknowledged fact among those who speculate with hyperbolic convictions attached to their predictions, each NBA Draft class will have a few players who seemingly come out of nowhere to have solid or spectacular professional careers — even if there’s literally no evidence to suggest they will.
Basically, while everyone tends to trot about draft season with educated information, the margin of error has historically shown to be massive, as there’s few sincere sure-fire prospects lurking in the shadows. If everyone consistently “knew for sure” about hidden gems, there’d never be a need for speculation prior to each new draft.
Last note before moving forward: This is less a film breakdown and more so an explanation as to why this Internet Scribbler believes Bol Bol is worth the risk during a specific juncture of the 2019 NBA Draft. If looking for a film room styled look, CBBToday’s Ben Pfeifer has the general public covered.
Nevertheless, let’s take a shot at this.
Bol Bol, Oregon Ducks – 19-years-old, 7-foot-2, 208 wiry pounds
Who is ready to get fired? Or, ugh, possibly appear to be a genius?
If an alien who only loved the NBA, but hated college basketball, was politely dropped off on Earth, our interstellar pal would be confused as to why an athletic big who can shoot is projected to land anywhere between nine through outside the lottery.
At the same time, there are people who have covered Bol Bol well before he even fractured his foot during his freshman season, limiting his sample-size. Those people often bring up concerns over his motor, defense and general lack of work ethic.
Those concerns can be real, but it’s also unfair to judge a 19-year-old in a way that might define him for the rest of his life. Imagine going to an interview for whatever job, then being questioned about your general everything from when you were that age. It wouldn’t be only sunshine and rainbows… unless you were one of those hipster kids who had his/her life together at such a young age (hate you).
Anyway, the reasons to fall in love with his game are clear, even if the flaws are as glaring.
Bol Bol is so offensively versatile, there’s never been a proven way to defend the big man. He fits in with other unicorns the NBA has fallen in love with over the years, but is even better and more athletic with the ball in his hands than some of his predecessors.
Soft hands, coupled with a strange ability to hit pull up jumpers, truly makes Bol Bol unique in the sense it feels comfortable to project an elite offensive game awaits for him in the NBA. Averaging 28.2 points, 12.8 boards and 3.6 blocks per-40 minutes, making 52% of his attempts from beyond the arc in his nine games with the Oregon Ducks, and a bonkers 68% from NBA range, the data suggests this kid is an eater-of-worlds.
But wait, there’s more. There’s always more.
The narrative around his stroke has the data to project it to the next level. Bol Bol shot 57% from two, finished with a true shooting percentage at 63, and from the charity stripe he made 76% of his attempts. Obviously, we’re working with a small college basketball sample, but he came to Eugene as a predicted sharpshooter. The evidence suggested he is that — especially when you realize his numbers were all in volume, as he had a usage-rate over 33 and a 3-point rate nearing 2.0.
Furthermore, while everyone rightfully gushes over his ability to hit from deep, Bol has advanced footwork inside the paint, creating a dynamic threat for whatever team selects him.
The reason some general managers will likely view him as a top-five talent (maybe not so much a pick) can make anyone giddy. However, the flaws are as terrifying as watching Real House Wives of Scranton in the dark while home alone.
Bol’s defense is atrocious. We’re talking “if 2014 James Harden was a 7-foot-2 player” awful. The effort isn’t there, and while he does a decent job of covering ground to deter off-ball players’ attempts at the rim, his floor awareness appears low.
There’s no real need to hammer it home to the point of insulting the youngster. It’s also insanely important to note a portion of his defensive projections carried over with him from his AAU days, and without him having a genuine chance to prove that narrative wrong in the college basketball season, if one is daring enough, those concerns can be shoved under a rug.
Again, because it’s important to note several times with a prospect like Bol, some negatives attached to his scouting report can be chalked up to youth. At the same time, it doesn’t explain it away for the remainder of his career. Those concerns were earned, are tragically real, and a lack of maturity alone isn’t why so many have soured on him.
Bol Bol, removing his increased or decreased value depending upon where he is selected, is about viewpoint. He can be the cat’s meow for those willing to risk it all for his insane offense; or he can be the dead gerbil in the yard who failed to run his own wheel, getting caught up in the forever running cycle that is
a gerbil’s life the NBA.
For me, if any franchise with the 10th overall pick or after decides he’s worth a risk, I could get down with it. Given how little a difference I believe there is in legitimate talent in my third tier of doom, where even the supposed safe bets aren’t sincerely safe, Bol Bol’s ceiling is higher than characters in any Cheech and Chong flick. Furthermore, the chance of bust isn’t so much overblown as it should more often apply to the other actually less talented players in the late lottery alongside him.
If drafted earlier than 10, he could very well get a general manager fired, as his floor is a bust. There’s no removed that aspect of his scouting report. Still, his ceiling, my lord, it’s as enticing as a layered David Mitchell novel.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Follow CBB Today on Twitter @CBBToday and like us on Facebook. We can now also be found on Flipboard where you can subscribe and follow us.
You can listen to and subscribe to the CBB Today Podcast on iTunes right here.
As always, don’t forget to subscribe to our college basketball, recruiting, NCAA Tournament and NBA Draft email newsletter. It’s the only way to survive the impending alien invasion.