Any man who is almost a half-foot shorter than his father would seemingly have little chance to be a professional basketball player, but if you are the son of 7-foot-7 Manute Bol, who was a rim-protecting specialist in the NBA from 1985 to 1995, it’s a different story. The son, 7-foot-2 Bol Bol, not only should play in the NBA, but also should be a more productive all-around player. The younger Bol plays with unusual finesse for such a tall man, and possesses a nice shooting touch from midrange and beyond.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see a lot of Bol this season, as he played in just nine games before suffering a navicular fracture in his left foot in December. As Jeff Feld notes in an article for Forbes, Bol’s injury could sideline him for more than a year, but players such as Joel Embiid and Marc Gasol have recovered from the same injury and resumed playing at a very high level.
Before his injury, Bol was producing big numbers for Oregon, averaging 29.8 minutes, 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game, while shooting 56.1 percent from the field, 52 percent from 3, and 75.7 percent from the free-throw line. The Duck’s schedule was relatively easy for the first nine games, but they did face Houston, Syracuse, and Iowa over that span, with Bol matching his season average of 21 PPG in those contests. Having said all of that, we must take into account that the sample size of the data used for this report is rather small.
To see the best of Bol, watch the video below, which was put together by our friends at Next Ones.
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- Shot blocking (2.7 per game and 13.1 Block %, both of which would rank 8th in the NCAA DI, if he qualified)
- Rebounding (9.6 per game)
- Able to efficiently score at all three levels (1.15 points per possession, 96th percentile)
- Scores high in terms of overall productivity and in the performance metrics (PER of 32.7, FIC per game of 17.8, Plus-Minus of 11, and W/S per 40 of .262)
- The combination of his various offensive skills and his length give him an intriguing upside
- Not a great athlete, and a lack of agility makes him a liability when defending in space
- Lack of strength, physicality, and effort negatively impacts nearly all aspects of his game
- Very skinny, and small frame may prevent him from adding adequate bulk
- Recovering from a serious foot injury
Bol is a multi-level offensive threat. This season, roughly half of his attempts came within six feet of the basket, but he displayed the ability to knock down shots from all areas on the floor, including NBA 3-point range. Not only did he make 52 percent (13 of 25) of his 3-point attempts, he also made 48 percent (11 of 23) of his 2-pointers between 10 and 20 feet. Spot-ups accounted for more than 15 percent of his touches, and when catching and shooting, he averaged an exceptional 1.61 points per possession (99th percentile). And though the numbers from this season might not show it (2 of 11), he also has the ability to knock down jumpers off the bounce.
Bol’s release on his outside shot is low and slow (shoots from his shoulder), but his shooting motion is fluid and consistent. He also puts good arc on the ball. He uses the same motion when shooting free throws, and the results are positive. Potential problems with his release were not apparent this season because of his height and the fact that he generally shot uncontested jumpers outside of the post.
Bol’s ability to put the ball on the floor is what seems to astonish most observers. Admittedly, there have not been many players of his size to be able to handle the ball as well as he does, but in the big scheme of things, he is still a very tall guy who is not overly agile, fast or quick, and it’s fairly clear to me that he will be unable to create a lot of offense for himself or others off the bounce from the perimeter at the NBA level. As it is now, he’s fairly selective about putting the ball on the floor for more than a few dribbles, and when he does, he usually has a fair amount of space to operate in. Even so, he still drives into some tough spots, with no good place to go with the ball. What he does do fairly well off the dribble is attacking closeouts. With a defender rushing at him and space ahead, Bol has shown a variety of effective moves (pump and go, pump and slide, crossovers, in-outs, and spins) to set up drives and shots, including pull-up jumpers.
The majority of Bol’s touches this season came from post-ups (30%), and he averaged 1.04 points per possession on those plays (87th percentile). His low-post game is very basic. He has no fancy footwork or counter moves, and he is somewhat hindered by the fact that he cannot always establish deep position due to his lack of strength and physicality. He mostly plays with his back to the basket, and he spins to set up right-hand jump hooks, drives to the rim, and turnaround jumpers (which he can hit past the 3-point line). He can turn in either direction, but his inability to use his left hand can make it difficult for him to finish at times. It is his length and soft touch that allow him to be effective despite not having a sophisticated and powerful post game. He is not always aggressive around the rim, settling for runners and floaters, but he is surprisingly effective with those types of shots. And when he is aggressive, his ability to finish over and around defenders from a great distance is rather impressive.
As of now, Bol is mostly a post-up and spot-up player. Moving without the ball and catching it on the move are not his strong suits, so he is not as effective as one might expect as a cutter and lob target. He’s also not fast up and down the court, which limits his transition opportunities. Most concerning are his struggles in the pick and roll, where he averaged just .8 points per possession (23 percentile), including 3-of-10 shooting on pick-and-pop attempts. The sample size is small (15 pick-and-roll possessions this season), and that has to be partially due to him not setting solid screens and then struggling to create separation after the pick.
Through the first nine games of the season, Oregon took advantage of Bol’s length and shot-blocking skills, and used a zone defense for the majority of the time. This strategy was employed the most vs. the Ducks’ more talented opponents. The impact of Bol camping in the paint was fairly obvious, as opposing teams avoided driving the ball to the rim and shot an uncharacteristic number of 3s. Houston, Iowa, and Syracuse all exceeded their season average of 3-point attempts per game vs. Oregon by a collective average of 6.7.
The Ducks’ zone defense also limited Bol’s exposure on the perimeter, making it more difficult to judge the all-important NBA quality of being able to defend in space. Synergy’s numbers indicate that he did admirably on the perimeter, limiting opponents to 9-of-34 shooting (26%) in isolation and spot-up situations. In terms of overall defense, he ranked at the 78th percentile for points allowed per possession. However, those numbers do not tell the entire story. From what I have seen, he does a good job impacting plays if he is in the general area, showing the ability to alter, block or dissuade shots by simply taking one step (and that’s a big step) and raising his arm. However, the more he is asked to move, the worse it gets. In pick-and-roll situations, he doesn’t seem to have a good sense of where to be and is often caught in no-man’s land. He often fails to rotate and/or stop the ball, allowing some very easy baskets, and there are other times when he does attempt to make a play, such as a closeout, and he is completely embarrassed because he is unable to change direction easily. Overall, there is an absence of physicality, aggressiveness, effort, and awareness on this end of the court, and oddly enough, that might be best demonstrated by the fact that he averaged just 1.7 fouls per game.
Intangibles and Miscellaneous
Bol came to Oregon with a reputation for taking too many 3-point shots and not playing with enough effort. Others questioned how important basketball was to him. During his brief tenure with the Ducks, he certainly displayed solid shot selection, but questions remain about his effort and desire.
On the court, Bol rarely does anything with a sense of urgency. He appears to stroll much of the time, rather than run, and it looks as if he is trying to conserve energy. He has some blatant lapses on both ends of the court, some that are due to a lack of awareness and others that are due to a lack of effort.
There is also an obvious lack of physicality in Bol’s game, and it goes above and beyond the fact that he is often overmatched in terms strength and weight. When boxing out and setting picks, he seems to go through the motions without really putting a body on anyone. More aggressive players beat him to loose balls and rip rebounds out of his hands.
Bol has a lot of offensive upside, given his length, shooting prowess, and ability to score off the bounce. However, I believe that there are certain physical limitations that he’ll never be able to overcome. He certainly has the potential to be effective as a spot-up, pick-and-pop, and post-up player, though he has a long way to go in the latter two areas – expecting anything more than that is an unreasonable expectation. Ultimately, his defense will likely determine how much playing time he gets at the next level. Right now, it’s hard to imagine him being effective on a team that switches everything, and it’s equally difficult to imagine him not being buried in the paint.
We also have to remember that he is recovering from a serious foot injury. Optimists will think that Bol was just beginning to scratch the surface in his first nine games with Oregon, and he was robbed of chance to make great strides throughout the season like many other freshmen have. Those same optimists will say that Bol has Kristaps Porzingis-like potential. Pessimists will think that his injury is just another reason to be wary of player who doesn’t seem to have the mentality and the body type to withstand the rigors of the NBA.
In the end, I am wary of Bol. The combination of his lack of bulk, strength, athleticism, physicality and intensity is concerning, and there is probably not a great deal that he will ever be able to do to improve in the physical areas. Injury aside, I believe that there is a far better chance of him being a career bench player than there is of him becoming a player similar to KP.
All indications are pointing to Bol entering the 2019 NBA Draft, and currently, he is generally considered a lottery pick. His injury will likely prevent him for working out for NBA teams, so his draft stock is unlikely to improve. At the same time, other prospects will be able to boost their stock during March Madness, the NBA Combine, and so on. As a result, we may see Bol slide down many draft boards, and at the draft, I would not be surprised if he slipped all the way to the end of the first round.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports and RealGM, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports Reference. Photo is courtesy of Oregon Athletics.