Bol Bol: Role
Incredibly tall and long
Smooth jumper, dangerous from beyond the arc
Blocks and alters many shots while rarely fouling
Not explosive in any way
Very poor upper & lower body strength
Willing yet ineffective screener due to frame
Unable to finish efficiently in traffic
Offensive role at Oregon
In his nine-game collegiate career Bol filled an unusual role for a big man. Although he was featured often in traditional big man play types (post-ups, cuts and put-backs), he did so with fluidity and skill rather than power and explosiveness. Moreover, he proved to be very comfortable operating on the perimeter. In spot-up situations he was dangerous both as a shooter and attacking closeouts with pull-up jumpers and drives to the rim. He also was a willing screen setter and a dangerous pop threat, but his lack of strength often resulted in his screens having little impact. In transition he was effective in first middle situations on the occasions when he ran the court quickly enough, but also was quite dangerous as the trailer diving toward the rim or spotting up on the wing.
Offensive role projection -
Bol’s game may be more effective in the NBA for several reasons. The ability to pull opposing rim protectors toward the perimeter with 3-point shooting is one of the more impactful skills a big man can have on offense. His jump shot is good, not just relative to bigs but relative to the league in general. Further, his handle is good enough to attack closeouts effectively when spacing the floor. While some teams may try guarding him with a wing or forward due to his lack of strength, focusing on ball denial and pushing him off his spots, his height will make it nearly impossible for such players to contest his jump shots. Moreover, when matched up with smaller players his post game is effective enough to attack the mismatch.
The key skill that will determine how effective his offense will be at the next level will be screening. Although he’s proven to be a willing screener that tries to find the right angles of approach, his thin frame and high center of gravity make it difficult to make any significant contact. While slipping the screen can be effective in certain situations it should be the change-of-pace in a screener’s game, not the fastball. Adding enough strength to actually impede defensive players would go a long way toward making him a dangerous pop threat in ball-screen situations.
Defensive role at Oregon
Oregon plays zone defense frequently, with Bol operating as the anchor. His length enabled him to block and alter shots at a high rate, and his mere presence dissuaded opponents from attacking the paint. In four games against top-100 teams, opponents increased their 3-point attempt rate from an average of 42 percent normally to an average of 57 percent against Oregon. To some degree, the threat of his rim protection was better than the execution, as these teams only shot slightly worse than season averages inside the arc. When rotating to the perimeter his impact was inconsistent. At times his length allowed him bottle up opponents and force poor shots, but he struggled with balance and change of direction which allowed some opponents to create space or drive past him.
Defensive role projection -
Bol’s height and lack of lateral agility will make it difficult to deploy him effectively at any position besides the 5, though teams may test out the idea of playing him as a 4. Whatever position he plays he will be at a strength deficit; there are several point guards in the NBA that could push him off a spot. He will be vulnerable both in the post and when matched up against strong offensive rebounders; these are simply facts of the Bol Bol experience. The question is whether his help defense, high impact plays and general deterrence of shots at the rim will outweigh his weaknesses in any given game. His mere presence impacts a large radius of space on the court, and that presence has ripple effects that enable perimeter defenders to operate more aggressively. Scheme will be a significant factor, as there are many fundamental flaws in his game, yet at the same time he opens up several options that typically do not exist.
Why Bol will earn minutes as a rookie
Bol’s size and shooting touch will get him on the floor as a rookie. He’s a tactical weapon whose presence can alter the flow of a game, dissuading shots at the rim and putting opposing bigs in difficult defensive situations. He will be a spot-up threat from day one, capable of making shots from above the break and attacking closeouts. With NBA spacing he may also find more opportunities for cuts and put backs. On the break he will be dangerous as a trailer. On defense he will struggle with the physicality of NBA big men, but his length will still enable him to make an impact and play a role even if he will require help in certain situations.
Why Bol’s minutes may be limited as a rookie
However, the aforementioned physicality will likely limit his minutes to some degree initially. While the 5 makes the most sense as his long term position, it may simply not be viable until he’s had some time with NBA strength and conditioning coaches. Playing him at the 4 minimizes some of the tactical advantages that make him so intriguing, and he relies on those advantages to counterbalance the weaker aspects of his game.
Additionally, the pace of the NBA game may simply be too fast for him initially. Even in college, while playing at an offensive pace of 77 in NBA-equivalent terms, he was often the last guy up the floor in transition which delayed offensive sets and made the team less dynamic at times. Improving his conditioning and his motor will be necessary if he wants to stay on the floor for more than a couple short stints per game.