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Breakout Watch: How Bol Bol could unlock the Phoenix Suns

It’s a dangerous game to talk yourself into Bol Bol. Join me on this journey of creative ideation.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the offseason, everyone. The time when we talk ourselves into guys’ on minimum contracts breaking out. Media Day amplifies these thoughts for many because it’s when things become real.

For me, the center of focus is none other than the electrifying Bol Bol. Yes, I’m going there.

I am cautiously optimistic that he will exceed expectations in this environment. He may not even crack the rotation for all we know, but the idea of him in this ecosystem is very fun.

The former Oregon product was the 44th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and spent three seasons in Denver before his campaign in Orlando with the Magic a season ago. The Phoenix Suns will be his third team, and he is entering his 4th season in the association at the age of 23, soon to be 24.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Still just 23 years of age, Bol is far from a finished product and still developing in multiple facets. There have been major adjustments to the speed of the NBA game, especially for someone of his size and lack of strength relative to his counterparts.

There have been some flashes, but he hasn’t had the right balance of situation and environment yet, which I believe Phoenix could offer him. His minutes may come in small doses at first, but if he makes the most of those opportunities, there is certainly room for an expanded role.

IF he puts it all together, he truly could elevate an already dangerous Phoenix team to another level. But that’s a big if.

Rim Protection

The defense as a whole is far from being “there” with Bol, but the one immediate impact he can make through his size and movement speed alone is contesting, altering, and blocking shots.

Here’s a montage of some of his best defensive moments in Orlando a season ago.

He isn’t going to lock up on the perimeter or bang down low with strong bigs, but he makes up for that with how long he is. Phoenix doesn’t have a ton of rim protection in terms of shot blocking on its roster, so having Bol as a secondary line of defense at the rim could come in handy.

His weak side rim protection and ability to contest nearly anything in front of him adds immediate value on that end. Best believe Frank Vogel will be working diligently with him to find the best way to optimize his skillset on that end.

Size + Skill

While Bol is far from a traditional big (well, one might argue he’s not a big at all) he can offer rim protection and the ability to alter shots like one.

Let’s hear from the man himself, what position is he?

That’s where I think things can get interesting. Utilizing him and Durant as rim protectors while deploying a traditional center such as Nurkic or Eubanks, and you have three bigs patrolling the interior at all times, all in different roles.

He can shoot the rock as well, though his 26% mark from deep a season ago isn’t a ringing endorsement. He did show the ability to knock them down and increased how frequently he took them in Orlando.

The hope is for him to get cleaner looks in an offensive system that allows him to do less. That alone should give him a positive bump in efficiency on all three levels. Hitting open threes will be a recipe for playing time in Phoenix this season.

He can also dribble! While he’s not going to initiate offense like prime Steve Nash or anything, he can grab a rebound and take it the length of the floor. There just aren’t many guys his size that have that ability. If he puts it all together (slowly) there is a pathway for him to being a matchup nightmare for opponents.

Chaotic Lineups

I had a lineup epiphany during media day yesterday.

The Suns could throw out a jumbo lineup of Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, Bol Bol, and Jusuf Nurkic.

When you combine Nurkic’s screen setting and passing ability with Bol’s ability to dribble and shoot, there are some deadly advantages Phoenix can create. Durant, Bol and Nurkic all being 7-footers that can pass, dribble (mostly) and shoot is exciting. Will it work out? Lord knows. Would this lineup be fun to watch? Absolutely.

He gives you frontcourt length with guard skills, and that is an extremely rare combination these days.

The Bol Bol experiment is one to pay attention to at the very least, even if you can’t convince yourself of the high-end outcome hitting. There will be some fun moments regardless, whether it’s in garbage time or closing games. Unleash the unicorn.

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