After being buried on the bench with the Nuggets, Magic center Bol Bol is drawing Victor Wembanyama comparisons and Most Improved Player award consideration while playing consistent minutes for the first time in four years since he starred at Oregon.
“Everyone talks about the Victor dude from France,” Magic star Paolo Banchero told HoopsHype when asked who compares to Bol. “I’m not trying to compare them, but Bol’s 7-foot-2, shoots threes, brings it up the court, makes passes, and blocks shots. I feel like people kind of forget about him, but Bol’s a freak of nature.”
Against the Nets, Bol was a human highlight reel. Bol went the length of the floor in three dribbles for a tough layup across his body, hit multiple pull-up threes in transition, used multiple Euro steps to finish in the lane, and had an alley-oop dunk that had everyone in the arena jumping out of their seats. During the game, Bol was a trending topic across Twitter, which included several tweets comparing him with Wembanyama due to their size, length, and skill sets.
“I don’t think any of us have been surprised by him,” Banchero told HoopsHype. “He was highly touted coming out of high school, and in the games he played in college, he dominated. He’s been capable his whole life. From the first day I got on the court with him in the summer, it was obvious. I was like, “I don’t know how this guy hasn’t been playing.” He’s ultra-talented at 7-foot-2, can shoot pull-up threes, and block shots all around the court. He moves like a 6-foot-5 shooting guard. It’s crazy.”
That’s not completely unusual these days, though. According to Nets star Kyrie Irving, unicorn big men are trending towards becoming the norm, and players like Bol and Wembanyama are a preview of the future.
“I think most of us would agree that the game is getting taller,” Irving said. “Guys are able to do a lot more with the basketball, and we’ve got to get ready for it. This is the transformation of our league coming in. We’ve got another guy, Victor, playing overseas and more of these archetypes who are 6-foot-11 and above handling the ball and being able to basically do it all. We’ve just got to get used to it and really enjoy what we’re watching.”
For Bol, however, enjoying his NBA journey at the start of his career wasn’t easy.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career not playing and being injured,” Bol told HoopsHype. “I think this has definitely been the best opportunity for me being on this team and getting a chance to play. It’s been fun every game. I feel like I’ve been getting better each game.”
Bol scored 142 points in 53 games during his first three seasons with the Nuggets. With the Magic, Bol has already scored 283 points in 21 games, including 16 starts. Bol has the highest scoring increase (2.4 to 13.5 points) of any NBA player this season. He also ranks fifth in blocks per game (2.0) and ninth in field goal percentage (60.1).
“I’m a little behind in my progression because I haven’t been playing for the last three years,” Bol explained. “I’ve been working on being the best player I can be. I think that’ll take me to the next level where I want to be. Every day, whether it’s practice, shootaround, or film, I go hard and pay attention.”
When it comes to film study, the NBA player Bol watches the most is Kevin Durant, who he also models his game after. After guarding Bol on several possessions, Durant was impressed with his growth and long-term upside.
“He’s unique and tough to deal with,” Durant said. “You’re seeing his confidence growing by the game. He can pretty much do everything on the basketball court. He just needs more reps. The last few years, he’s been in and out of the lineup hurt or in G League stints. I love what Jamahl is doing with him over there, putting him at the point sometimes and the five. He’s moving him around because he’s such a versatile player. It’s great for the league. I think you’ll start to see him continue to be more of an impact player as time goes on.”
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