Orlando Magic, Bol Bol need plan and time to work

The Orlando Magic opted to keep Bol Bol this offseason and now need a plan to get something out of him. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic opted to keep Bol Bol this offseason and now need a plan to get something out of him. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic almost have too many young players to know what to do with.

Fans are rightfully excited for a lot of players on this roster — from top overall pick in Paolo Banchero to the emerging play of Franz Wagner to a fully healthy offseason for Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs’ bounceback year and on and on and on.

There is real eagerness to see what happens this season and multiple storylines for lots of young players. This may not be the season where the Magic make their breakthrough to the playoffsalthough it certainly could be with all the talent on the roster — but it will be an exciting season that charts a path.

Coach Jamahl Mosley and the Magic do have a difficult task ahead of them.

The first part of that task is starting to instill winning expectations and habits on a young roster as they begin to make that climb up the standings. The next part is ensuring that all the young players still get the space to explore and improve.

That is the intersection where Bol Bol lies. He is the player that exemplifies a lot of the potential that still remains untapped on this roster, but also a player who seemingly has an odd fit and an ill-defined role.

Bol Bol is a very talented player with a ton of potential to build on. What he has lacked is the playing time and space to grow. The Orlando Magic have a delicate balance to hit with a player they opted to bring back.

Nobody really knows what kind of player Bol is or can be at this point in his career. Injuries have kept him from seeing the floor and a young player like him without many defined skills ultimately found it tough to break through on a championship-contending team in the Denver Nuggets.

Heading to a rebuilding team like the Magic would be a breath of fresh air. But opportunity could still be in short supply with the loaded frontcourt the Magic feature — with Wendell Carter and Mo Bamba filling the center spots, Moe Wagner providing some veteran presence and Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke splitting the forward minutes.

But for Bol to find success, the Magic need to ensure they have a solid plan for developing him and give him the time to go out there and play. And that is the puzzling part of bringing Bol into the fold.

Choices like the one facing the Magic and Bol are all part of the difficult rotation decisions that will dot the roster throughout the season.

The reality is there is not going to be enough time for them all. There is already sufficient and-wringing about where Chuma Okeke fits into the equation considering he plays behind Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and the returning Jonathan Isaac. R.J. Hampton will likely start the season in the rotation with Gary Harris out with a torn meniscus, but the still-raw and developing Hampton needs his time.

Bol is sitting in that same spot. But the Magic signed him to a new deal this offseason suggesting they have some interest in further developing him. The question is trying to figure out where he fits in.

Bol’s career to this point has been a rough one, to say the least.

He was a clear Lottery pick when he entered the college ranks at Oregon. He averaged 21.0 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, showing guard skills in his 7-foot-2 frame (furthering the evolution his father Manute Bol hinted at when he was in the league in the 1990s).

But he broke his foot just nine games into his run at Oregon and he has never been the same. He still entered the draft and went in the second round as concerns about his health only seemed to grow.

He spent the 2020 season in the G-League recovering from injury (where the Nuggets did not have their own dedicated G-League team). He played eight games for the Windy City Bulls, averaging 12.0 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. That was encouraging.

He was brought with the main roster to the bubble and had a good showing, especially in the exhibition games. He finished his unofficial rookie year averaging 5.7 points per game in 12.4 minutes per game in seven appearances. he showed in that run his ability to block shots and defend some while also hitting from the outside.

Injuries though kept him from playing much else. In the last two seasons, Bol has played more than 12 minutes in a game just four times scoring a total of 21 points. Eleven of those points came in his lone heavy-minute game last year, a Jan. 1 appearance against the Houston Rockets.

To say the least, Bol has had two hills to overcome — his injuries and a complete lack of playing time or consistent role.

The injuries unfortunately take over the latter part of his story. The Denver Nuggets had a trade with the Detroit Pistons rescinded when Bol failed his physical before the Nuggets eventually traded him to the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics essentially pawned him off on the Magic. It was not clear why Orlando went with the deal, giving up a nominal second-round pick for a player who was out for the rest of the season and entering free agency.

Clearly the Magic see something in Bol. It may well just be the potential that everyone else saw in him and the Magic are the ones trying to see if they can unearth it.

Orlando has invested at least a little in him, signing him to a two-year deal. But it is not clear how the team intends to use him. Will that mean a year developing in the G-League? Can he grow without consistent playing time?

The Magic are probably not looking to play him over any of the other players on the roster unless he earns his spot on the roster more clearly. Everything at the end of the day is earned. And Bol will have to earn his opportunity (obviously staying healthy is a big part of that).

But it will be tough for him to do so without a clear plan and without the opportunity to do so.

That is the catch-22 for Bol and the Magic. It will be impossible for him to grow without actually being able to get out on the floor and play. And there are just a lot of players and mouths fighting for attention.

Orlando is going to give Bol an opportunity in training camp for sure, assuming he is healthy. That is where he can likely carve his place with the team.

But he needs a plan from the team and he needs the opportunity to succeed to have that chance. How he gets that and what he can do with that are the big questions.

dark. Next. Franz Wagner's arrival seems inevitable now

Until then, he is just a bundle of potential and hope that nobody has a real handle on.