Of all of the prospects in the 2019 NBA draft, Oregon Ducks freshman big Bol Bol is the most divisive. His strengths are the strongest (non-Zion realm) and his weaknesses are the weakest. For this reason, the Oregon big is a puzzling prospect.
Some very smart people see him as a top three lock and others would feel nervous drafting him in the first round. Though the consensus seems to agree on his stock as a mid-late first round pick, opinions still vary.
Bol’s season-ending injury early in the season certainly didn’t alleviate any of the questions surrounding him. His decision to sit out the season and prep for the NBA Draft left us with a measly nine games to study (not including his high school film). While we’d love to have more material to dissect the inner workings of Bol, nine games are plenty, at least for me, to feel confident in my evaluation.
Averaging 28.2 points, 12.8 boards and 3.6 blocks per 40, shooting made resulted in an impact felt in his limited time with the Oregon Ducks.
Standing 7-foot-2, and thin as a twig with outlier offensive traits, Bol has (erroneously) drawn comparisons to the likes of Kevin Durant. While that comparison is bad for obvious reasons, the Ducks youngster has an incredibly unique offensive skill set and oozes upside on that end.
Bigs with elite shooting touch and handling coordination are exotic breeds. Those enticing traits are accompanied by incredible downside, as his paper-thin frame, questionable feel and all-around defensive woes drag him down in a big way. So what gives? Is he worthy of a top three pick in this draft, which is so often slighted for its weakness at the top?
Bol’s offensive evaluation begins with his rare natural touch and shooting ability. His gargantuan height aside, he possesses some of the best shooting touch in this entire draft class. He shot 52 percent from deep in his nine games in Eugene and a ludicrous 68.42 percent from NBA range. His super efficient two-point percentage (.570), free throw percentage (.757), and true shooting percentage (.632) are positive indicators for his shooting resume. He lived off of post fadeaways from the block all the way to the mid-post area, where his unrivaled size and touch made the shot untouchable:
Given Bol’s very small shooting sample (25 threes) it is doubtful he’s as good a shooter as his percentages suggest. His three-point attempt rate (.189) given his monster usage rate of 33.4 percent is something to take in as well. I’m confident he will be near, if not above 40 percent three-point shooter in the NBA, though.
As specified previously, his natural shooting touch is elite. He shoots an easy ball with confidence; watch how smooth this turnaround three from NBA range is leaving his hands, despite his low release point:
His threes are at a higher risk than normal of being blocked, due to his low release. Though I doubt he has many triples swatted, it is something he needs to worry about, especially when creating his own shots:
With legit NBA range, Bol will be able to pull rim protectors away from the key, opening up creases for teammates to penetrate. Think Brook Lopez, if he traded 75 pounds for a handle. He looks comfortable firing away from the hash, well beyond the pro-level line:
What makes his shooting chops even more devastating is Bol’s impressive handle for a human of his size and proportions. If a 7-foot-2 big man shooting from the range the Ducks big does in the above clip is scary terrifying, pulling up from Curryland off of the dribble is Jack The Ripper level horrifying:
Pivoting to the big man transitioning from offense to defense, it’s time to talk about the cherry on top: Bol’s handle. Actually, it’s more like the frosting than the cherry on top, as Bol’s handling prowess is just as integral to his upside as his shooting.
The comfort with which he grabs and goes is impressive. He looks fluid and coordinated galloping up the floor and even makes a nice read (thwarted by that dastardly kick-ball, though):
Some of these forays in transition have fans swooning over Bol’s upside. His ridiculous length helps him block this shot, as he quickly corrals the ball and pushes. Again, he exhibits ridiculous coordination here, though it may not be aesthetically pleasing (we need to remember to put aesthetic biases aside when evaluating a prospect like Bol, who doesn’t operate like any other NBA player).
The former All-Everything high school prospect loves these mid-range shots, where his touch, size and fluidity pulling up make these shots borderline unguardable:
Bol exhibits a comfort level handling the ball, which seperates him from the mass of shooting big men. His limited handle doesn’t matter too much, as other centers will be guarding him for the majority of his minutes. Teams won’t ask him to create off of the dribble much, but his handle has him making closeouts look silly.
Check the quick left to right cross for the slam:
Bol’s shooting is going to make him a massive threat off of pick and pops. When defenders inevitably overcommit to his jump shot, he will take them off of the dribble. This play is truly jaw-dropping: all he needs to get to the lane is the in and out dribble.
His long strides make up for his lack of athleticism, floating the ball high off of the glass:
Bol’s handle and shooting will have him stationed on the perimeter for the majority of his minutes. In the modern NBA, his bread and butter post fadeaway won’t be a shot he takes commonly. Aside from that fade away, he struggles in the post against NBA athletes due to his extreme lack of strength, which leads to poor balance and body control. He also seems to suffer from a non-assertive mentality, despite him often have a sizable advantage over his college opponents. When he flipped the switch, the results were fantastic. Bol lacks in strength, but compensates with length.
He simply maneuvers around the defender–rather than through him–and dunks the ball like he’s playing on a mini hoop:
Unfortunately, Bol’s lack of core strength is often crippling. Houston, a team with NBA athletes and a pro-style offensive and defense, were well equipped to systematically annihilate Bol. He knows he can’t get all the way to the rim, so he often stops short, falling back on these little floaters.
While they can be effective, he’s pushed off of his spot so easily, making the floaters tougher:
His strength is concerning on offense, but it’s workable as playing on the three-point line as a floor spacer doesn’t necessitate taking blows often. Therefore, his most glaring flaw on the offensive side of the ball is his severe lack of feel. He has a bad habit for taking terrible shots, looking off teammates. Bol Bol can pass, he just doesn’t very often. About once every game or so, there is a legitimate flash of vision. Scroll back up to the clip against Iowa, where he makes a decent read in transition.
Or here, where he shreds this double team. He keeps the ball high, patiently waiting for the right time to make a decision. His height should make him a great passer out of double teams, as he whizzes this pass between Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks to an open teammate:
How about this quick dump off in the post, where he recognizes the cutter and lays it off to him right when he can catch in stride and finish the layup:
However, these flashes of passing ability are far overshadowed by the countless examples of missed reads and bad shot selection. His 1:2 assist to turnover ratio bolsters this point. Bol is far too headstrong on his mission to get buckets, in a similar vein to another top prospect, R.J. Barrett. Contrast the above clip with the one below, where he can’t process this double team.
Pay attention to his eyes here: he doesn’t even think to look for a kick out to a shooter when help comes, set on making his move:
The handle here is great, faking the dribble handoff and gliding to the rim on the baseline. He’s too ambitious with this drive, dribbling himself out of bounds before a feeble attempt at the MJ switch hands layup from behind the backboard:
Look at the shot clock when Bol shoots this ball; that’s an NBA clock and a half to create a good shot, an eternity by basketball standards. Instead of the aforementioned potential for good decision making, he immediately goes to his trusty turnaround, clanking this one off of the rim:
Again, Bol over dribbles himself into trouble on the baseline, where the defense can easily send a double to capitulate the slender big. Despite ample time left on the shot clock and open teammates galore, he tosses up an off-balance floater which lands without hitting anything but the stunning hardwood at Matthew Night Arena (An arena floor designed to look like a forest eye is genius, gorgeous and made stomaching hours of Oregon tape much more pleasant):
Despite the few flashes of vision, I’m not giving Bol the benefit of the doubt on his passing grade. His lack of feel is too obvious to brush off, limiting his offensive ceiling. Two factors act as currency in today’s NBA: efficiency and good decision making. Players who don’t make good decisions (the non-superstar variety, at least, whose bad decisions are actually good because of their superstar status; see Kyrie’s ridiculous mid-range pull-ups, which would normally be bad shots but are not because of the elite nature of the player) don’t play meaningful minutes for great teams. It’s my main offensive worry with Bol, that his shot selection will stunt his development into an unstoppable weapon.
One more small qualm I have with Bol’s offense is his hands. Being the big friendly giant (as I’ve heard) that he is, we would expect him to be a potentially excellent lob target. However, on multiple occasions, he drops easy passes, ruining easy shots. I don’t know if his hands are hard, small or simply hand-eye coordination is hard for a man of his unique proportions, but the hands are an issue:
(The real reason I included the point about Bol’s drops are so I could include this absurd catch in traffic by Kenny Wooten, one that would make Julio Jones jealous):
Even taking into account Bol’s lack of feel and strength, his offensive projection is slightly positive. That shooting and handling ability have the potential for Bol to break through any established ceiling. At his highest outcome, he’s a rare stretch big man whose offensive versatility gives him value no matter what he does in the feel department or on defense. Speaking of defense…
Defending on the perimeter, Bol is nothing short of a disaster. I can only imagine how difficult that frame is to control, making nimble movements incredibly tough. He is not an NBA athlete, lacking any semblance of strength, quickness, or vertical explosion. On the perimeter, he doesn’t move well, to put it lightly.
This weakness is most clearly exemplified in his closeouts, where his movements are less graceful than a drunk sloth running a half marathon. Bol’s already slow feet, exacerbated by his nonexistent technique and utter lack of balance (he should take some yoga classes, Myles Turner style), allow for frequent straight line drives (so frequent that I had to limit myself to two bad closeouts, as to avoid redundancy. There were that many).
I can’t even begin to explain this catastrophe; He can’t control his forward momentum at all and tries to reach, sending him even further off balance, letting Davis waltz to the cup unharmed:
I can only imagine Bol saw a pretty girl the first row and ran towards her slow-motion romantic movie style, before remembering he’s in fact not Romeo and is playing a basketball game. All it takes is a glance at the rim by Nate Hinton for Bol to slide like he’s playing basketball on an ice hockey rink (I’d pay to watch that):
This was one of the only decent closeouts I tracked, so I felt obligated to include it. Nice job sagging to tag the roll man (kinda), before recovering to Brooks and contesting with length, under control:
When Bol is under control and balanced, his length is a useful asset in making rotations and closeout. It’s an elite corrective tool, as his condor arms make up for subtle mistakes in positioning. He’s not jumpy, is controlled in his movements and forces this floater to miss:
Switchability is a premium in the NBA today. Unfortunately for Bol, guards are going to roast him whenever they are so lucky to have the Oregonian behemoth guarding them one on one. His horrible technique confounds his equally horrible foot speed, making his only saving grace on the perimeter his length. Bol’s stance here leaves him off balance. He’s standing far too upright and his torso is leaning over his legs, instead of behind them squatting in a defensive stance.
Like the roadrunner, the guard leaves Bol in the dust, only to be saved by superhero Kenny Wooten soaring in for the rejection:
Similar to his passing, there are flashes of defensive brilliance from Bol, which could lead one to believe he has immense switching upside. This time, he stays low in his stance and moves his feet well. Watch the fluid rim protection before he denies this poor shot attempt:
At seven foot ginormous and averaging 3.6 blocks per 40, one would expect Bol to be an excellent rim protector at the NBA level. His length alone will give him some rim protection upside, primary as a weak side shot blocker. Against smaller drivers, he blocks out the sun (and the rim, too), putting up a wall between the ball and the basket. When players make the foolish mistake of trying to go over The Great Wall of Sudan, they quickly realize what they’ve done wrong, watching Oregon dunk the ball in transition:
Here, he correctly steps up to stop the ball, forcing a pass to the dunker spot beneath him. Bol’s sheer size allows him to be in two places at once, swallowing this shot from behind:
His length can be deceiving, though, as Bol will not be an elite rim protector at the NBA level. Post players can attain deep position against him due to his lack of strength, making blocks that much more difficult. His defensive feel and IQ are not the greatest (as we’ll get to soon) and his lack of vertical athleticism and technique take him out of position to get many blocks.
Because he is not explosive, Bol has to load up to jump high for blocks; watch the arms swing back and the knees bend like he’s performing the vertical jump at the combine. His slow load time gives the ball just enough time to reach its downward trajectory, turning this block into a goaltend. A shorter, more vertically explosive player (Brandon Clarke) likely would have been able to get his fingertips on the ball while it was still traveling upwards:
Playing help between two offensive players, Bol reaches in and fails, compromising his good position. That allows Fabian White to put Bol behind him, where it is much more difficult to block his shot:
Another factor limiting Bol’s effectiveness as a rim protector is his poor defensive awareness and feel. In more ways than one, he shares strengths and weaknesses with DeAndre Ayton, despite all of their obvious differences. One of those similarities is a grave lack of defensive awareness, compromising rim protection. He stares blankly at the cutter, not providing any resistance at the rim:
His Aytonitis flares up again, not reacting to the body running towards the basket he’s supposed to be guarding with his life:
Oregon played plenty of zone with Bol towering in the middle. On inbounds plays, therefore, the middle is all Bol’s responsibility. He zones in on guarding the inbounder too much, leaving the big man a free slip to the rim. His screen may have fooled the former Oregon Ducks big man, but he wasn’t exactly screening anybody and he walks away when they lose contact. This play was ducking bad:
I’m not sure what he is trying to do on this pick and roll coverage. Oregon likes to drop him in the pick and roll, so he can wave his arms and clog passing lanes. On this play, he abandoned his drop despite Will Richardson being behind his man. It looks like he realizes he has to help eventually but it is too late, as he proceeds to spin in a circle, completely lost. If it weren’t for a muffed pass and a nice recovery by Richardson, this is a layup:
Despite being 7-foot-2, Bol is going to be eaten alive on the defensive glass by the Andre Drummonds and Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world. His gangly frame makes box outs ineffectual, as players can shove him out of the way with ease. 6-foot-8 Brison Gresham grabs this board uncontested, as he didn’t try to box him out or jump for the rebound:
To put it succinctly, he is going to be a terrible NBA defender. In order to salvage his length and make him a playable defensive player, some smart coach is going to have to build the perfect roster and scheme around him, likely playing him in a zone or zone type defense. On the wing of a zone, he can actually be fairly effective due to his raw wingspan.
Fortunately, there are teams willing to experiment with the zone for extended minutes, like Brooklyn and Miami. However, the chance he lands on one of these teams is slim and Bol’s defensive projection remains a strong negative.
I haven’t talked about Bol’s most prevalent flaw yet, his high potential for future injuries. He’s already sustained a season-ending foot injury. The human body isn’t supposed to grow as his does. The correlation between NBA skyscrapers and continuous injuries is well documented — Bol’s skinny frame only worsens injury risk.
How many games and seasons is he going to end up injured? The chance Bol’s career is maddeningly short due to nothing of his own fault is real and a factor that will dissuade teams from investing valuable resources.
I came into this piece with Bol on the fringes of my top 10 (12 on my pre-March Madness top 100). I don’t think I can move him all the way out of the first round, as his offensive ceiling is enticing. However, a top 20 ranking is too rich for me.
On defense, he is going to be unplayable in high leverage moments. He’s never going to be a starter for a good playoff team, as he’s going to be roasted by elite offenses who will render him useless, taking full advantage of his weakness, slowness and lack of IQ. Even bigs like Rudy Gobert struggle in the playoffs when facing a team that can scheme around him. A toddler could design a scheme which gave an offense infinite points against a defense with Bol.
Assuming he stays healthy, Bol is always going to have a rotation spot on some roster because of his shooting ability at his size. His handle should still be effective at attacking closeouts and punishing the few lumbering big men left in the NBA, but his lack of NBA athleticism will have him floundering when trying to create space. He should have some utility punishing switches, relying on his fadeaway to get the ball over small guards.
Against many of the NBA’s smallest, he won’t be able to pound them inside because of his lack of strength. NBA teams are going to be able to have strong, medium-sized wings (P.J. Tucker, Thaddeus Young) guard Bol and have great success because of their massive strength advantage, neutralizing his height advantage in the paint.
For some team late in the first round, the Oregon Ducks freshman is a worthwhile gamble. If he hits his ceiling, that team stole one of the most unique offensive tools in the NBA. And if that team is adept enough to craft a defense to minimize Bol’s flaws, they will have a supremely impactful player on their hands.
The fact that he is so fit dependent is another concern, on its own. So many things have to go right for him to even be playable, let alone stay on the court for an extended period of time. Despite all of his unicorn traits, Bol has too much downside and not enough upside to be worth a pick in the lottery.
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