There are many different directions that the Pistons could go with their 15th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. They are in desperate need of some bigger wings, shooters, a backup point guard, and possibly a backup center. Most of the focus from many fans has been on wing options, which makes a lot of sense. The Pistons have a plethora of shooting guards who can play some small forward, but they have nobody over 6’6” who can play the small forward position and body up the bigger wings of the NBA.
There are some options who could potentially be available like Kevin Porter Jr, P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro, Nassir Little, Romeo Langford, Keldon Johnson, KZ Okpala and a few others. However, if you are like me, and you are not that excited about the wing options outside of Kevin Porter Jr., you might be interested in some other potential options at pick 15.
That is where Oregon big man Bol Bol comes in.
I know what you’re thinking. “The Pistons just acquired Thon Maker, who is a young, lengthy big who can shoot the ball.” What if I told you that Bol Bol has the potential to be what Thon Maker is supposed to be - plus more?
Although he only played in nine games this season due to a foot injury, Bol Bol put up some pretty incredible numbers in those games. He averaged 21 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, and 2.7 blocks per game. He also did this while shooting 56 percent from the field and 52 (!) percent from 3-point range on 2.8 attempts per game.
The 3-point shooting numbers are impressive, but he also showed range beyond just the college 3-point line, which points to his shooting translating to the NBA.
You may notice that he has a bit of a low release, but he is 7’3 with a 7’8 wingspan, so it is a shot that likely won’t get blocked a lot at the next level. He may need to work on his mechanics a bit, but he appears to be somebody who will be able to shoot the ball at the next level, which is very rare for a player of his size. Many scouts regard him as one of the best shooters in this draft class, not just for a big man.
Another thing that Bol Bol can do pretty well for a player of his size is put the ball on the floor. I would not have him initiating offense, but he can attack a closeout, or use a ball fake to get by his man and into the paint.
He looks a bit clunky dribbling the ball, but nobody of his size is going to look really smooth handling the ball and driving to the basket. He isn’t going to be taking guys to the rim off the dribble at the next level, but if he can take advantage of a defender closing out hard on him or playing tight on him, he can be more useful than just a guy who stands around and shoots.
Another huge positive of his game is his rim protection. That is very clear from his 2.7 blocks per game he averaged in college. He is somebody who knows how to use his length well and without fouling (Bol averaged only 1.7 fouls per game). That is something that a lot of these athletes with long arms struggle with at a young age, and Bol Bol appears to already have it figured out.
He is going to struggle with bigger, stronger players at the next level due to his slender build (Bol packs only 208 pounds onto that 7’3 frame), but he should be a very effective help-side shot blocker at the next level because of his length and instincts.
Bol doesn’t appear to have too many post moves. In the film that I watched, he shoots a lot of hook shots over defenders and doesn’t have a lot of counter-moves. Obviously, he can get away with this with his height at the college level, but in the NBA with bigger and stronger defenders, he may struggle in the low post. The good thing about him is that he appears to be somebody comfortable out on the perimeter, so if he cannot be extremely effective down low, he can still be useful with his shooting.
He also settles for a lot of jumpers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - he is a good shooter - but it could also mean he is hesitant to go inside because of his frame.
The biggest red flag with Bol Bol is his health and size. Again, he only played in nine games during his freshman season at Oregon due to a foot injury. There is a long list of big men throughout the history of the NBA that weren’t able to overcome nagging foot injuries. Greg Oden is the standout example as a former number one overall pick, and you also have Joel Embiid, who dealt with foot issues his first couple years in the league. Although Embiid has overcome those issues, he is still a player who has been hurt quite a bit throughout his career.
Bol also only weighs 208 pounds. Getting him on an NBA training program could help him bulk up a bit, but he also appears to be a body type in which it is very difficult for him to put on additional muscle/weight. It could lead to him struggling with injuries throughout his career and struggling with bigger players in the NBA. Pistons fans saw this with Thon Maker whenever the Pistons faced a team with multiple big men, like the Pacers.
If the Pistons are drafting Bol, they are putting a lot of trust in their training staff to get him bulked up a bit, and keep him healthy. Arnie Kander and the new Pistons training staff were able to get Reggie Jackson to play all 82 games and had Blake Griffin healthy throughout most of the season. Hopefully, they could work their magic on Bol.
The final issue with Bol: he lacks a motor at times. One of the common complaints I saw is how he doesn’t fight for rebounds a lot, which could also be a result of his lack of strength. Many Pistons fans will hear “lack of motor” and take him off their list, because that was the big knock against Andre Drummond coming out. I didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of Bol in college because he played so little, so I will just trust the evaluators on that.
Why the Pistons should consider Bol Bol
Like I said above, the only wing player who will potentially be available at the Pistons pick that I like is Kevin Porter Jr. If he is available at their pick, that is who I want the Pistons to take. In the event that Porter isn’t available, the Pistons should swing for the fences with Bol.
Many of the other wing prospects potentially available are flawed and likely not a long-term starter. You can listen to some great insight into that on this week’s podcast. with Laz and draft analyst Cole Zwicker.
Fans see the current state of the Pistons roster and they want an NBA-ready player in the draft who will be cheap due to the Pistons cap situation. And while some of the wing prospects are likely going to be more NBA-ready today than Bol Bol, the Pistons likely aren’t going to be drafting a starter at pick 15 this year. So either way they are drafting a bench player. The best path for the Pistons to get a bigger wing who will be able to contribute this year is going to be through free agency.
If Bol Bol isn’t able to play inside due to his size, you still have a 7’3” human who can shoot the ball outside and defend the paint. He could basically be Thon Maker if Thon Maker was actually a reliable 3-point shooter. The Pistons need 3-point shooting and also need a backup center due to Zaza Pachulia being a free agent and likely not coming back. They could kill two birds with one stone with Bol while also having a player with a lot of potential, who just needs to stay healthy.
Bol Bol would be able to backup Andre Drummond at the 5 and Blake Griffin at the 4, while also being able to play with Thon Maker next season depending on the matchup. If Thon Maker doesn’t progress how he is expected to, the Pistons will be able to replace Thon Maker with a better version of Thon Maker and just let Thon Maker walk.
If the Pistons trust in their training staff to get Bol Bol right physically and health-wise, he is the kind of player that you swing for with the 15th pick. It’s what Milwaukee did with Giannis Antetokounmpo back in 2013. Bol Bol doesn’t have the ceiling that Antetokounmpo had, but he is a player with a lot of upside and length that you can try to mold into the highly-coveted unicorns of the modern NBA.
Bol Bol is obviously a flawed prospect, but who isn’t going to be flawed at pick 15? In this draft, universally regarded as “weak,” Bol Bol would be a high-risk, high-reward pick for the Pistons, who have never really had players with his potential size and shooting combination.