Why a ‘change of mind’ is exactly what Bol Bol needs
In a size-based game, it’s almost unimaginable that Bol Bol hasn’t made an impact in Denver yet.
Heading into its third season, the mouth-watering but raw skyscraper has tools most players couldn’t dream of.
“The guy is a huge person in terms of physique, height, length and he’s really, really talented,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on the Denver Post’s Nuggets Ink podcast this week.
At 7-foot-3, Bol is the rare prospect with fluid ball handling skills, a reliable outside kick, and wingspan that could, theoretically, deter even the most astute guards from leading the way.
Theoretically, because two seasons after the Nuggets traded in the second round to get him, the stars are nowhere near lining up for him.
The first layer is a nod to the success of the Nuggets, as they have distinguished themselves among the busy Western Conference and have started to scratch the surface of the title fight. Outside of Milwaukee over the past three seasons, no NBA team has amassed more wins throughout the regular season and playoffs than the Nuggets.
It is hardly the ideal environment to develop a prospect, let alone one as unique as Bol.
“Our first three years, we were developing, and the young guys had the opportunity to play, and more importantly, to play through all of their mistakes,” said Malone. “Well, Bol doesn’t have that option, man. It’s about trying to have the field advantage in the playoffs.
As the Nuggets have fought for the standings over the past two seasons, Bol has remained largely glued to the bench, buried on the depths board behind big men Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green and Zeke Nnaji. Last season former Nuggets Isaiah Hartenstein and JaVale McGee appeared to overtake Bol in the pecking order, as did hybrid forward Vlatko Cancar.
Whenever he played, the game was rarely still in play, and even then his flashes often looked more like new stuff.
Part of the dilemma with Bol will always be his posture adjustment. Its slim frame is a hindrance to indoor play, while its size makes it difficult to keep traditional wings. The Nuggets didn’t have time to experiment last season and due to the busy pandemic schedule they were rarely practiced.
But the external circumstances of Denver’s rise would also mask an indisputable part of Bol’s development: his attitude.
According to Michael Porter Jr., the rare talent that has been allowed to develop alongside Denver’s title race, that could change.
“He scores, blocks shots, plays with a good attitude, a good energy about him,” Porter said this week. “It’s really good to see. I try to stay in his ear just because, Bol Bol, he can be a part of this team and help us do great things. It’s just going to take a change of mindset, which I think he’s ready to embrace. So I try to text him, tell him to go out with me, to come to the gym with me at night, things like that because this kid is very talented.
Aside from what these invitations say about Porter, it further sheds light on what has held Bol since moving to Denver.
Even after a positive performance at the Las Vegas Summer League this year, attitude and drive have remained consistent themes with Bol.
“He’s young, and it’s not lost on us,” said Malone. “But he just needs to be a little more consistent, day to day, inside and out and stay ready so that when his number is called he can come out and play and play at a level.” raised. And then you get a little more consistent minutes and then you become part of the rotation and build from there.
While Bol’s path to rotation can be fraught with obstacles, his one-on-one approach is likely the first step in gaining a foothold in Denver. And if Porter is right and Bol’s state of mind has changed, maybe the bigger guy on the list will soon make himself less invisible.