The Denver Nuggets’ return to play included several unique aspects, one of which was the effective, multi-faceted play of rookie Bol Bol.
The return of Denver Nuggets basketball featured some of the strangest tidbits in NBA history, including superstar center Nikola Jokic’s starting bid at point guard, and 7’2” rookie Bol Bol‘s first minutes as Denver’s starting small forward.
As wacky and unique as this scrimmage proved to be, Denver reeled in the sloppy 89-82 win over the Washington Wizards and gained vital information regarding players on the court, including Bol Bol throughout his dynamic first showing.
The rookie finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and a game-high 6 blocks, as he controlled the paint defensively from the tip. He played a game-high 32 minutes, shooting 6-of-14 from the field and finishing three of Jokic’s seven assists.
Bol’s game possesses many ingredients the Nuggets covet in their future power forward, including the ability to block shots, hit from deep, rebound, and cut/finish around Jokic. Head coach Mike Malone spoke in regards to Bol’s skillset after the scrimmage, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post:
“He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach,” Malone said. “I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”
This scrimmage served as a preview into how Bol’s skills could mesh in the future, even if this isn’t consistent with his 2019-20 role once Denver regains core players.
Let’s examine how Bol was utilized in Wednesday’s scrimmage, and how this impacts the Nuggets:
Herein lies Bol’s most significant contribution Wednesday, as he blocked 6 shots in the contest, including 3 swats within the game’s opening minutes. As a result, many Washington players became timid around Bol, noticeably shying away from areas he patrolled. Rookies rarely possess this level of game-changing defensive impact.
Bol’s length (7’9” wingspan) was notable, but his mobility was also very impressive. He proved himself fluid in scrambling to block shots, surprising Wizard’s attackers by closing gaps on multiple occasions.
Denver has long desired a shot-blocker to play alongside Jokic, as the Serbian center has improved as an on-ball defender, but isn’t an intimidating rim-protector. Today’s scrimmage was a small sample size, but it verified Bol’s potential future as a long, mobile shot-blocker extraordinaire.
Bol’s defensive prowess will also endear him to Malone, as Denver’s coach has a notoriously defensive mindset. Fans and analysts alike gripe over Michael Porter Jr.’s lack of playing time, as Torrey Craig’s defensive style has jumped Porter’s promising offense in the rotation. The equation is simple, however: Playing lock-down defense is the best shot at earning Malone’s trust.
If Bol continues to dominate the defensive end, his experience could be very different than Porter’s thus far. Malone won’t hesitate to deploy a lethal paint defender, and Bol may play meaningful minutes sooner rather than later.
The cutting game was a pleasant surprise, as few knew what to expect here. Bol has been rumored to be mobile and athletic…but how many 7’2” guys actually move fluidly? Nonetheless, Bol demonstrated himself as an effective, athletic cutter who thrived alongside Jokic, as he converted three of Jokic’s seven assists.
This is highly important, as success in Denver often involves cutting around Jokic, utilizing his passing ability to accumulate easy buckets. Bol did just that, which Nuggets fans should find highly encouraging.
The first Jokic-to-Bol connection occurred within the game’s opening seconds, as Bol darted across the lane, caught a Jokic pass, and finished the layup to give Denver its first score. Jokic and Bol connected in similar fashion at the 2:50 mark of the third quarter, as Jokic found a cutting Bol, who finished the extended layup to put Denver up 62-56 .
However, Bol’s best play as a cutter involved a highlight-reel dunk, as he sprinted the length of the court, caught a Troy Daniels pass and threw down an impressive jam. Check out the mobility and athleticism from such a large player:
Strangely enough, Bol shot just 2-of-8 from 3-point range, one of the few blemishes in an otherwise effective outing. Despite this, many floor-spacing elements were notable, and Bol’s presence as a catch-and-shoot threat should create space for Jokic and others.
Bol spent ample time spotting-up in the corner throughout the scrimmage, a space he’ll often occupy when playing with starters. At 7’2” Bol’s catch-and-shoot game poses a serious threat, as his high release-point is difficult to contest.
Bol shot 52 percent from deep in college and is rumored to have lit up the Nuggets training camp. He’ll likely become a knockdown threat at some point, which is excellent in today’s spacing-oriented game.
Despite some struggles, Bol nicely converted a corner 3-pointer off Jokic’s feed in the 3rd quarter. A 7’2” guy who consistently strokes from deep could terrorize the league. Check it out: