The NBA G League is the perfect place for young talent to develop as they get used to the increased speed and skill level of the NBA. But when it comes to top-level talent figuring out their role in the G League, there isn’t much precedent but I feel that Bol Bol could break the mold.
Out of the last eight NBA G League Rookie of the Year winners, none of them ranked inside the top 10 in the Recruiting Services Index Rankings coming out of high school. But Denver Nuggets rookie Bol Bol (No. 6 in 2016 RSCI rankings) has a legitimate chance to become the first impact high school basketball recruit to find his game in the G League. There is quite a bit of hope surrounding Bol despite only playing 268 minutes of college basketball. He played 9 games at Oregon, looking like a legitimate stretch five as he blocked 3.6 shots per 40 minutes and shot 52% from the 3-point line on a very limited 25 attempts from deep.
Fast forward to the 2019-20 season and there is much more hope than doubt surrounding Bol’s game as a result of him being out of sight, out of mind but there is reason to believe Bol’s development will be aided along by the G League will potentially encouraging results.
THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION
The first reason the NBA G League will help the Denver Nuggets develop Bol Bol is the level of competition. Bol will not be playing against the NBA’s elite in the G League, if much NBA talent at all to start and this will help ease him into the NBA.
The 2018-19 NBA G League Rookie of the Year was Angel Delgado, a high-energy big man who was a dominant presence inside without being the most polished/skilled player. In the 2018-19 G League season Delgado averaged 18.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per game while shooting 61.6% from the field. I use Delgado as an example of what Bol should aspire to be because of the skill level advantage Bol possesses now means there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to see G League success as these players have.
Delgado did not possess much of a face up game on offense coming into the league in 2018 but now you can depend on him to be a reliable bet to score if given three dribbles on the low block. Bol already possess this type of game but should be able to refine these moves with an experienced G League coaching staff.
The last G League ROY who was even near Bol’s ranking as a recruit was Antonio Blakeney, who was ranked 15th in the 2015 RCSI. It was apparent from day one that Blakeney would dominante the G League if given the opportunity. He averaged 32.0 points per game while maintaining a massive 34.3% usage rate. Bol will likely not receive that level of investment in terms of shot attempts from his G League squad but he shouldn’t look out of place either.
Even with minimal involvement on offense–in a role as a simple pick-and-pop threat–Bol is likely to see 8 to 10 field goal attempts per game and should have no problem becoming a double-digit scorer inn 2020. His lack of strength is his biggest concern at the moment, so what we will need to see most is Bol carving out space early and often by establishing position, hopefully leading to many, many free throws.
SPEED OF THE GAME
The team that led the G League in field goal attempts per game last season averaged almost half a shot more per game than their NBA counterparts. You’re not going to find the same kind of offensive efficiency at the lower level but the speed is comparable if not greater at the G League level. No matter what team he plays for, Bol will be forced to guar in space, putting to test what stands at the biggest question mark for him on defense.
Even if he plays in a lot of zone defense as he did in college, we need to see Bol showcase the ability to breakdown what is happening in front of him. Even if it is within the confines of a zone, showing the ability to assess what threat is the most important at any given time will go a long way for the 19-year old.
With Bol already focusing on adding weight and strength to his slender frame, learning the game is the next step. Part of that process will be learning to play without fear, even when his shot isn’t falling. Bol attempted a decent 3.7 attempts from 3-point range per 40 minutes in college and that number needs to increase at the G League level. His finishing inside is sure to take a hit as he gets used to the physicality so stretching the floor will become crucial.
No matter how skilled he is, Bol isn’t going to shoot over 50% from 3-point range at any level, as a small sample size skewed his college numbers. Plenty of attempts will help us suss out the noise that comes from small samples. Even if Bol is playing against weaker competition, he should be able to hit open shots at a solid rate.
Ultimately, it will be hard to discern too much from Bol’s rookie year in the G League but him simply seeing the floor is perhaps the most obvious sign of improvement. Here at Nugg Love, we will be following Bol’s development closely but as we await real basketball action, keep in mind that Bol Bol’s adjustment to the speed of the game and skill level of opposing bigs will be the No. 1 thing to keep an eye on in regards to the 19-year old big’s development.