Cavs Tank Watch: Oregon’s Bol Bol is high risk, high reward

Gary Breedlove, 247Sports

Throughout the rest of the NBA season, WFNY will do a column every other week or so featuring some of the best talents in college basketball. It’s not that the Cleveland Cavaliers are tanking (at least not yet), but at this point, it’s clear that they will have one of the top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft unless something drastic changes. Throughout each Tank Watch, we will focus on either a specific draft prospect or multiple prospects if they so happen to be on the same college team.

Another prospect, another freshman. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the players the Cleveland Cavaliers could potentially select in the 2019 NBA Draft just began college a few short months ago. The freshmen class is that good. While the Duke trio may be at the top of the list, Oregon Ducks big man Bol Bol’s skill set and season so far shouldn’t go unnoticed, by both the college basketball world and the NBA.

When you’re 7-foot-2, you’re hard to miss. Pair that with the fact that he’s Manute Bol’s son and that just adds to the intrigue. There aren’t many players who can block a shot, lead the break, and then either knock down a three or slash to the basket for a dunk. At his size, Bol can (somehow) do just that.

Playing on the west coast, it may be easy for Cavs fans to forget about a player like Bol. While it may mean that fans have to push back their bedtime to see him and the Ducks in action, it’s definitely worth it at times. He may not have those must-watch highlights like Zion Williamson, but Bol still makes plenty of must-see plays.

In short, you won’t be disappointed if you stay up later in order to watch Bol play. If the Cavs miss out on the Duke trio, the Oregon big man isn’t a bad consolation prize. He may be the best player in the 2019 NBA Draft when all is said and done.

Averaging 21.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks while shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from long distance in 29.4 minutes per game, Bol has been quite good offensively. He still has plenty to work on, but his numbers don’t lie, at least so far. Although it might not look like it due to his 7-foot-2 frame, Bol can step out and shoot (and make) shots from three-point range, can handle the ball well, can find teammates off the bounce, and with his size, he can easily shoot and pass over defenders.

At 7-foot-2 and with a 7-foot-8 wingspan and 9-foot-7 standing reach, Bol is dominant defensively. Even if he may get out-muscled by some opponents, his size and arm length make up for it. He’s a game-changer when it comes to defending the rim. Averaging 2.5 blocks a game, even when he isn’t blocking shots, Bol is altering them at the rim simply because opponents are worried about what he can do.

Among many question marks surrounding Bol and how his game will develop at the NBA level is the fact that the NBA is moving farther and farther away than running the offense through the post. Many teams used to work from the inside out, now it’s all about shooting the three-pointer and slashing to the hoop to either create an easy basket or finding an open shooter beyond the arc. In 2013-14, there were 15 players who averaged eight or more post-up touches per game. In the years following, that number has dropped to 12, then 10, then seven, and then just six during the 2017-18 season. In order to adjust to this change, Bol must continue to develop his outside game while also working on getting stronger.

Along with that, given his size, he tends to move awfully slow at times. He also has to play with more fire and enthusiasm while continuing to improve and lift in order to maximize his potential. Whether it’s his physical limitations or just having bad habits and tendencies that he must change, Bol still has plenty to work on defensively as well, even if he is one of the most dominant big men in college basketball.

An NBA general manager will likely be fired because of Bol, whether it’s due to taking him and the big man not turning out to be the player he could have been, or for passing on him and Bol becoming a star. In terms of Bol, he needs to hope that it’s the latter. One of the most glaring problems heading into June is that it seems as though Bol will need some time to develop and improve on both his game and his strength. If he is a top-10 pick, will his new NBA team be good enough to allow him time to develop? That’s not likely.

College basketball hasn’t seen a player much like Bol before. Whether it’s his size or athleticism, the big man is impossible to miss. We’ll find out the rest of the season if he will be impossible to pass up in the NBA Draft as well.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie did a great job of breaking down Bol and how his game could potentially be successful in the NBA.

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