As I entered the Phoenix Suns' practice court for the first time, I did not know what to expect. Even for an NBA junkie like myself, most of the players were unknown to me. Joel Bolomboy? His last name sounds more like a mixed drink rather than that of a future rotation big.
But after about fifteen minutes of exposure, I was immediately drawn to the soft-spoken, athletic big man.
With a strong showing at the combine thanks to an astounding 37.5" standing vertical, Bolomboy put himself into a position to succeed heading into his pre-draft workout in Phoenix. If the Suns were at all dismissive of the accolades accrued (Big Sky MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in 2016) against weaker competition, the Weber State standout all but solidified a solid look for himself with his athletic testing.
"I think going into the combine I did really good and I helped myself out a lot. There was a little bit of doubt going on -- people were kind of skeptical if I could play with better competition," he said. "I think I kept the momentum going into these workouts."
From a skills perspective, there is a lot to like about Bolomboy. He profiles as a kamikaze roll guy on the pick and roll -- a la (a younger) Tyson Chandler -- and a heady defensive player with the ability to guard multiple positions, switch on the pick and roll, and protect the rim. It is obvious that Bolomboy (rightfully) holds his defensive abilities in high esteem.
"I think if I get switched off [on the pick and roll] there are some point guards I can guard. In the post, if I get switched off to a bigger player, I can use my strength and my body to guard them too," Bolomboy said.
Though he is undersized and a bit slight with his weight, I still feel comfortable in saying that Bolomboy will be a menace on the boards. He averaged a hefty 12.6 rebounds per game last season, and in a vacuum, the art of rebounding has less to do with skill and more to do with will. Bolomboy has a nose for the ball and an unselfish mindset that parallels the role of an NBA garbage man. (It also helps that he has pogo sticks for legs.)
The biggest development to the big man's game has been his focus on stretching his range as far out as the NBA three-point line. Dave and I immediately joked about the form in which Bolomboy's shot is sprung -- it is kind of clunky and takes a second to get going.
But dammit, does it go in, and if teams leave him open for a second in the corners, he is capable of raining enough jumpers to keep a defense honest.
"I have extended my range. I can hit open shots. NBA threes, mid-range. I like to create for my teammates ..." Bolomboy said. "I am really coachable."
Combine that little nugget with the bunny hops and defensive chops, and there is certainly an intriguing prospect here.
Currently projected to go as the 60th pick in the draft by DraftExpress, Bolomboy is aware that there are still plenty of doubters out there in regards to what he can bring to a team at the NBA level.
"Oh no, there has never been doubt in my mind. I always come out ready to play with a chip on my shoulder and just go out there and try to prove everyone wrong because they are always going to have something to say," Bolomboy said. "You know, even the best of the best. There is always going to be criticism."
No criticism here, Joel.
[Randy Newman voice]
You got a fan in me.