Dating back to 10 days before, the Phoenix Suns have long been expected to sign unicorn big Bol Bol to further improve the depth in their rotation and add some size and versatility. John Gambadoro from Arizona Sports 98.7 continues to bat 1.000 on Suns reporting this summer:
I would not be surprised if the Phoenix Suns take a hard look and consider signing Bol Bol when he clears waivers. He is a good player with a lot of upside.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) July 6, 2023
Now on Sunday, the Suns made it happen:
ESPN Sources: Free agent F/C Bol Bol has agreed on a one-year deal with the Phoenix Suns. At 23, Bol had his best NBA season with Orlando: 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks in 21.5 minutes. Another developing talent to join a deepened bench rotation.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 16, 2023
Bol adds to the litter of upside signings after most of the initial free agents were all aged around 25-26; Bol checks in at 23 and still improving. Only signed to a minimum deal (and a true one-year deal instead of some of those one-year-plus-a-player-option deals that many of the other free agents signed to), it’s a true low-risk, high-reward proposition.
To temper some expectations a little on the 7’2 220-pound talent, there are a few things worth pointing out:
- only a 29.3% three-point shooter over his career, including 26.5% on a career-high 113 attempts last season
- roughly a 2:3 assist-to-turnover ratio which is definitely not ideal, including a nearly 1:2 ratio on a career-high 69 assists last season
- averaged a career-high 1.2 blocks per game last season in 21.5 minutes, but fellow Suns signing Drew Eubanks averaged 1.3 blocks in 20.3 minutes
All this is to say he’s an exciting player because of the unique build and skillset, but he’s not going to blow you away statistically like you might think. He was a little more productive over the first third of last season when he started 32 out of the Orlando Magic’s first 37 games.
Over that stretch, which was the most run he’s gotten compared to any other period in his career, he averaged 12.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks with a much more impressive 38.8% on 1.8 3PA, but that was still a rough stretch for the team, which started 13-24 even with a six-game win streak in there. Orlando would hit its stride later with Bol less involved.
Prior to spending last season in Orlando, Bol spent his first three seasons with the Denver Nuggets, albeit playing in just 53 games (starting only two), but the time spent in practice with Nikola Jokic could prove useful in both Bol’s development and the Suns’ potential matchup(s) against Jokic.
Just looking at things on paper, if the Suns want to use Bol exclusively as a big, I would guess it would be as the third one in the rotation behind Deandre Ayton and Eubanks, but there’s certainly enough versatile promise that he could play alongside either of those guys as well, working as a helper and maybe even in triple-tower lineups that include Kevin Durant as well.
Worst-case scenario, Bol is the most overqualified 12th man in the league, and Suns should continue to hear praises — and eventually reap the benefits — of their replenished depth.