New Detroit Piston Bol Bol’s two-way upside makes him an intriguing trade pickup

Detroit Free Press

Troy Weaver hasn’t shied away from taking big swings during his first 18 months as general manager. Part of the Detroit Pistons‘ rebuilding strategy has been giving opportunities to former five-star recruits who hadn’t enjoyed much NBA success — such as Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo.

Sunday’s trade, which saw the Pistons flip Rodney McGruder and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2022 second-round pick to the Denver Nuggets for Bol Bol, fits that plan. Bol, who was the fourth-best recruit of the 2018 recruiting class according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings not only fills a need for the Pistons as a 7-foot-2 big man, but possesses the talent to become a core piece for the organization.

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Bol will have three months to audition. He enters unrestricted free agency this summer and plays a position the Pistons need help in. He’s largely an unknown commodity three years into his NBA career, but he’s the type of high-upside player the organization should be taking fliers on.

McGruder, a highly respected veteran, wasn’t in Detroit’s longterm plan. Brooklyn’s pick will likely end up being in the 50s. The Pistons will get an extended look at Bol without giving up anything substantial.

The Pistons have been thin at center all season. Isaiah Stewart and Kelly Olynyk were their only true centers with NBA experience entering the season, and Olynyk has been out since early November with a left knee sprain. Detroit has been relying on Trey Lyles, a power forward, and Luka Garza, a 2021 second-round pick, at the five when Stewart is on the bench.

Bol, who possesses a 7-foot-8 wingspan, immediately becomes Detroit’s biggest player. And he brings skill on both sides of the ball. In nine games at Oregon in 2018-19, he averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.1% overall and knocking down 52% of his 2.8 3-pointers per game. He’s a genuinely good shooter, especially for his size. He shot 44.1% from 3 on 49 attempts on the EYBL circuit in high school, and has knocked down 14 of his 37 NBA attempts — a healthy 37.8% clip. Bol also has potential as a ball-handler and has shown reliable touch around the rim.

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On defense, Bol’s size makes him an effective shot-blocker. He rejected 2.3 shots per game during eight G League games two seasons ago. He isn’t mobile, though, and is listed at 220 pounds. His lack of weight and maneuverability are reasons why his draft stock tumbled. He has the length to be an elite defender, but lacks the needed technique and awareness.

Bol has to prove he can play at an NBA level. The 44th pick in 2019 only logged 328 minutes with the contending Nuggets over three seasons. And he only played nine games at Oregon due to a fracture in his left foot. The injury was part of the reason why Bol, once projected as a high lottery pick, fell to the middle of the second round. It kept him out of most of his rookie season; he didn’t make his debut with the Nuggets until July 22, 2020, in the NBA bubble games in Orlando, Florida.

Still, it’s a low-risk, high-upside trade. Bol could make an immediate impact for the Pistons, who are awaiting Olynyk’s return. He has an NBA pedigree, as the son of former NBA star Manute Bol. He checks multiple boxes on both sides of the floor. And now, he could have a real opportunity to play after languishing in Denver.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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