Bol Bol & Romeo Redux
6’6”, 202-pounds, 6’11” wingspan, unknown vertical but I bet it’s solid, turns 20 in October, 11th on Fenrich’s board
I wrote about Romeo Langford back in December and about Bol Bol in January. I’m not going to rehash those posts here, but rather highlight any changes for each player and explain why I have them ranked where I do.
Of Langford, a lot has changed. In December, I wrote: “In his Game Theory podcast, Sam Vecenie described Langford’s jump shot as one of the draft’s biggest “swing skills” as in a skill that, depending on development, could swing a player’s future prospects in one direction or another.” And in April, Langford told ESPN, “I hurt my thumb right before the Duke game in practice … I think it’s fair to say that we never got a chance to see me at my best at the college level, especially since I’ve been playing with basically a cast on my thumb the whole season. Obviously that throws off your shot.”
He ended up having surgery for a torn ligament in April, but what are we supposed to make of the injury for a player whose jump shot is his key question mark? It’s tough to take away much.
Pre-injury: 6 games, 32.5 minutes/game, 63.5% on 2s, 26% on nearly 4 3s/game, 66% on nearly 7 FTAs/game
Post injury: 26 games, 34.4 minutes/game, 50.5% on 2s, 27.5% on nearly 4 3s/game, 74% on nearly 6 FTAs/game
Given the sample size, opponents, adjustment to college and then adjustment to post-injury shooting, it’s just noisy. And in that noise, I don’t see enough of a reason to make any adjustments to Langford on my board. When we initially put our boards together, I had him 11th overall, but as I’ve gone deeper, there are at least three players I’d bump ahead of Langford and will likely publish an updated board in advance of the draft this evening. Those players are Sekou Doumbouya, Grant Williams, and Chuma Okeke. I’ll be bumping up each player for a different reason, but for Williams and Okeke, I believe they can, and will, contribute better to winning basketball teams. For Sekou, his size, athleticism, and ability to shoot it decent already gives him an edge over Langford.
7’2.5”, 208-pounds, 7’7” wingspan, unknown vertical but I bet it’s not as good as Romeo’s, turns 20 in November, 5th on Fenrich’s board
Bol Bol exists in his own singular category of one – or two if you want to bucket him as a prospect with Kristaps Porzingis. About Bol, two things heavily shaped my views:
His basketball odyssey which took him to four or five high schools and a single college in a five-year span. In terms of basketball, he’s never known stability.
The absurd sample he turned in during his 9 games at Oregon: 52% from 3 on 25 attempts (nearly 3/game), 3.6 blocks/40, 56-52-76 shooting splits, 63% true shooting, 12.4% block rate, 33.4% usage.
In three games against NCAA Tournament teams (Iowa, Syracuse, Houston), he recorded 11 blocks and three 3-pointers while shooting 78% on 18 free throws. This is a small sample of a small sample and not necessarily indicative of NBA-caliber opponents, but in the little evidence we’ve seen, Bol’s been more than capable of producing.
I’m probably higher on Bol Bol than most based on what I view as a boundaryless ceiling. The feel, shooting, length, size, and athleticism make me think he has the potential to be a special player. Alas, the gap between where Bol is today and where he could be coupled with his turnstyling defense and history of questionable effort reduce my confidence in his long-term improvement. He can be a 20 and 10 NBA player and struggle to impact games. The proof won’t be in the numbers, but the effort and execution. What does Bol Bol become in a world of stability? Are his bad habits replaced with efficiency or consistency? Is stability even attainable in a world you spend months at a time on chartered flights with late nights and ice baths and the Steven Adamses of the world kicking you in your narrow ass? There’s a sad distance in Bol’s deep set eyes. I can feel it in his lack of expressiveness, in his words about his father, in the transience of his basketball life. The NBA, for all the hopes and dreams placed on its attainment, doesn’t seem like a place for healing. Good luck, young Bol.
And in my assessment, it still holds up. Most players I’ve seen in this draft are desperately grasping at their strands of potential. These players have different, ever changing, ceilings and fluctuating likelihoods of reaching these moving ceilings. Bol’s ceiling isn’t as high as Zion’s, but it might be the second highest of the whole class because, like Zion, his physical gifts are so rare. He has a 9’7.5” standing reach and can shoot threes well above average. What is that? Who does that? Bol is 5th on my board and while I believe he has a higher ceiling than Brandon Clarke, RJ Barrett, and Ja Morant, the road to reaching it so high and so steep that its likelihood is probably narrower than a lot of players I have ranked behind him, but even short of his maximum ability, Bol can still impact winning. As I wrote, for his game to reach its summits, he needs some kind of stability and continuity and if it’s not there, then that narrow likelihood of ceiling attainment shrinks to a pinhole in the sky, to be wondered at but never reached.