he 2020 NBA free agency has been an unprecedented one from a calendar perspective, but its also been a whirlwind to say the least with some surprising trades. More specifically, after a trip to the Western Conference Finals, the Denver Nuggets lost Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, who both signed with the Detroit Pistons, although Grant was a much bigger loss to the Nuggets.
Grant signed a three year, $60 million dollar deal with the Pistons, but even though the Nuggets were willing to match that offer, Grant decided to sign with the Pistons mainly because of his desire to be assigned a larger offensive role within a team. Grant was a force in the bubble, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He was a good weak side shot blocker whenever the Nuggets went small, he was quick enough to defend players on the backcourt, and most importantly, he would guard the best forwards in the league while putting up good offensive numbers.
Without Plumlee or Grant, it looks like the player we have all been excited for might be asked to stand out of the hen and take a second step forward.
Enter Bol Bol.
The son of the late 7"7 center Manute Bol, the younger Bol is an intriguing prospect. At 7"2, he's not quite as tall as his father, but he has incredible abilities for a player of his size: He can shoot, handle the ball, protect the rim with blocked shots from the weakside, and he can also pass the ball. Check out this fantastic pass where Bol threads the needle on the fastbreak and finds Plumlee for the easy dunk!
Bol slid in the 2019 NBA draft to the 44th pick, primarily due to a foot injury which scared many NBA teams away, and for good reason; big men with foot injuries are a notorious bad ending from a historical perspective.
However, Bol definitely impressed in the bubble, as he showcased some flashes of brilliance which led many to speculate whether Bol is indeed apart of the Nugget's young core moving forward and not just a trade piece. Beyond just the flashes of great play from the rookie, what was even more impressive was his durability in the games he played with the minutes he was given. He played 30+ minutes in several of the scrimmages in the bubble without signs of slowing down, and his ability to cover ground defensively with his massive wingspan was fantastic to witness.
The combination of athleticism, shooting, ball handling, and passing is incredibly rare for someone of Bol's size that it would be foolish to give up on him without giving him legitimate, and meaningful rotation minutes in the upcoming season to evaluate things more critically. This seems to be the case, now that Bol signed a standard 2 year deal to remain on the team that drafted him.
The question remains: Is Bol ready to be the backup center for Jokic? Unfortunately, that is doubtful, mainly because of his lanky frame which needs more bulk in order to play against other bigs in the league, especially the traditional bruiser types. Coach Malone isn't afraid to switch things up, as we saw some funky lineups in the bubble with Bol playing the 3 position, and there aren't many players in that position that can really contest his shots with a hand in his face.
Bol is still very raw and the coaching staff in Denver haven't fully figured out how to best utilize his strengths, but in the meantime, Bol must continue to get stronger while maintaining his quickness where traditional 5's have no chance in guarding him on the perimeter. The mismatches he creates due to his incredible versatility is his greatest strength, and his enhanced development would make that strength into something unstoppable if he can put it all together.