The Denver Nuggets and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly have never shied away from taking a chance on a prospect. That trend continued with their selection of Bol Bol with the 44th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Last year, the Nuggets took a chance on Michael Porter Jr. in the first round and Jarred Vanderbilt in the second round. Both players had question marks as they recovered from injuries, but that did not stop Connelly and the Nuggets.
On Thursday night, Connelly was at it again. Denver traded into the second round and selected Bol out of the University of Oregon with the 44th pick. Bol, a potential top-5 pick at one point, slid down draft boards in large part to a foot injury. He had a stress fracture in his left foot that forced him to miss all but nine games.
“There was injury concerns, you heard that last year (laughs),” Nuggets president of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly joked referring to Michael Porter Jr., who was drafted a year prior. “The draft is funny, you do the best you can to kind of plan and map out how the night is going to progress and one pick can turn into a 10-pick free-fall. We are not concerned as to why he fell, we feel very fortunate that he fell.
“As the night progressed, we got pretty aggressive. He was a guy we circled much higher on the board. So, I’m not sure (why he fell), but certainly we didn’t have him where we picked him, we had him much, much higher.”
In a conference call with the Nuggets media, Bol was asked his thoughts on his draft day slide, which he did not even have words to explain as he attempted to hide his frustration from falling all the way to the 44th pick.
“My biggest takeaway is just, like…(pause)…I honstly don’t know,” Bol said on a conference call with the media.
The issue with his health is centered around, “a stress fracture in my navicular bone on my left foot,” Bol explained. The good news for the Nuggets and Bol is that injury seems to have cleared up.
“My foot is 100 perfect healed,” Bol said. “I just recently started getting back on the court, like a month ago. I’ve slowly just been doing workouts.”
Bol said he has yet to play 5-on-5. Additionally, it is unclear if he will play at Summer League in a few weeks. No matter when he does see the floor, Bol is willing to do whatever the Nuggets ask of him.
“My plan is hopefully play this season, but it’s up to my team.” Bol said on the same conference call. “If they was to just focus on me getting stronger and whatever; it’s fine with me.”
Denver entered Thursday night with zero picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, but Connelly and the Nuggets did not let that stop them and the reward now seemingly outweighs the risk for Denver. It only cost the Nuggets a future second-round pick and cash considerations to trade for the 44th pick and the chance to acquire Bol.
A former 5-star recruit out of high school, the Nuggets drafted a player who shined in his limited games at Oregon. In just nine collegiate games, Bol averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. While those numbers are great, he most impressive part of his production was actually his efficiency. The 7-foot-2 sniper shot 56.1% from the field, 52% from three-point range and 75.7% from the free throw line.
“I’d say my game is a little unique because, for my size, I can dribble pretty well and I can shoot from anywhere pretty well; my passing is pretty good also,” Bol said on his game. “I can just do a lot of things guys my size can’t do.”
Bol is the son of legendary NBA player Manute Bol, who is one of the two tallest players in NBA history. Of the current players in the NBA, only Kristaps Porzingis and Boban Marjanovic are taller than him. Salah Mejri, who measures in at 7-foot-2, is as tall as Bol.
“He’s long. He can make shots. He can rebound. He’s a very good basketball player. That part of his game is hard to be dismissive of,” Tim Connelly explained. “He can shoot, he can handle, he was one of the top players in his high school class, certainly comes from great bloodlines so he’s familiar with the professional game. I think with his length, his ability to protect the rim and stretch the floor is a pretty rare combination.”
Another player that has a pretty rare combination of skills is Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. That is why Bol started to watch film of Jokic last season.
“Towards the end of the season, I started watching Jokic highlights because his great passing ability and that’s just something I wanted to add more to my game,” Bol explained. “I watched actually a lot of his highlights and he’s a very great player. The Nuggets were a very great team last season and I’m just very excited to be apart of the team.”
One of the things that could make Bol’s slide on draft night easier is the fact he is joining a rising team in the NBA. The Nuggets won 54 games last season and fell just one game short of a Western Conference Finals appearance.
“Yes, I think because how good the team is,” Bol said when asked if being drafted by Denver makes his slide any easier. “I think that will help me because of the great players around me and the great organization. I think that’ll also help me become a better player.”
No matter what happens with Bol, he was well worth the risk that Denver took on draft night. The traits and skill set that he possesses could make him a second-round steal. Luckily for the Nuggets, they are in no rush and could follow the path they laid last season with Porter and Vanderbilt.
The Nuggets have a blueprint for how to help Bol moving forward. If he can even come near what his projected ceiling was prior to his foot injury, the Nuggets may have yet another potential dominating force waiting to be unleashed.