Nobody in the NBA expected Bol Bol to have the kind of impact that he has had for the Orlando Magic through 17 games. But he has been one of the breakout players of the season.
Initially seen as a backup to Wendell Carter, at this point, Bol Bol has started 12 games and has made the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics look very silly for giving up on him.
Whether it is forming a fearsome paint-patrolling partnership with Wendell Carter, or alongside members of the second unit and Mo Bamba as a two-headed monster, Bol Bol has shown there is nothing he cannot do for this Magic team to help them try to win games.
With Bol Bol’s importance to the Orlando Magic so high after such a small amount of time, let us examine some numbers that perfectly illustrate this importance.
The Magic were seen as a group that could one day excel defensively, yet this season rank a poor 25th (113.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) in that category. When Bol is on the court, that number is a much better 110.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, which would put the Magic in the top 10 in the league if applied to them as a whole.
This makes sense, the aforementioned partnership with Carter grows stronger by the game and he alters so many shots inside.
What gets spoken about less is Bol’s mobility, both with and without the ball, and how he is able to contest shots he has no right getting near.
It also allows him to make up for the mistakes he or his teammates make quickly to assume the right position on the court. The Magic might be a disappointment defensively so far, but Bol certainly has not been.
He might not be fast, he can be beaten off the dribble by opponents and he is no whirlwind when in possession of the ball, but the IQ and Bol’s sheer size negate that.
We often gush over the physical tools of players. You cannot teach height as they say. But players have to actually put these attributes to good use. Bol is a great example of hiding his lack of speed with length and smarts.
It was always thought Bol could be the defensive specialist he now is, but offensively he has been a much-needed revelation.
Averaging 13.3 points per game, he is doing so having nailed 14 of his 32 shots from deep (43.8 percent) so far this season.
It is a small sample size, yet he is taking just shy of two attempts from 3-point range per night. If he can bump that number closer to three attempts, and keep the output roughly the same, it would be huge for the team as a whole.
Unsurprisingly Bol leads the roster in effective field goal percentage (66.7 percent), but what is surprising is how comfortable he can look both bringing the ball up the court and handling it outside of the paint.
This is not where the Magic want him to be most of the time, but there is a comfort in having a giant be able to handle and shoot from outside.
As Bol has already said himself this season, and reported by Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com, simply getting the opportunity to show what he can do on both ends of the court was all he ever needed to prove he could stick in the league.
"“The more I play, the more I get comfortable,” Bol told Cohen. “I just needed reps. I feel like that’s just helping me. The game is slowing down for me, and I’m seeing a lot more stuff – offensively and defensively.”"
Having this kind of impact is beyond the best-case scenario for the organization.
Carter is too good to bring off the bench, and he is a more consistent and physical inside presence than Bol. Yet Carter averages nearly eight minutes on the court per night more than Bol, but their rebounding numbers are pretty close (9.1 for Carter, 8.2 for Bol).
So you would be forgiven for not wanting to see more of Bol, even if that comes at the expense of Bamba, who himself is having the best season of his career.
Players like Bol are on top of mind right now as the league continues to get more versatile with big players. It is hard to deny his impact and hard to deny he resembles players like the incoming Victor Wembanyama that the league is already buzzing about.
If you are looking for one single number to back this statement up, then it is surely 14.9. This is Bol’s Player Impact Estimate. And it is 47th in the entire NBA.
For context, Karl-Anthony Towns sits below him (also 14.9), with esteemed names like Devin Booker (15.1) and LeBron James (15.3) just ahead.
Bol is the highest Magic player on the list, with electric rookie Paolo Banchero just behind him (14.8).
Banchero will surely overtake Bol at some point, but the fact he is even in this position as we move towards one-quarter of the season in the books is astonishing.
Player Efficiency Rating is another attempt at a catch-all number to highlight the importance of a player to their team. Bol has the highest number in that category (20.5) on the Magic too. He has built a bit more of a lead over Banchero (19.3) there.
Bol is a top 40 player league-wide in this particular category, and whether you really buy into the numbers or not, there is no doubt that all of this is good news for Bol and the Magic.
Even if you are more of an eye test kind of fan, to watch Bol on the court is to see a mobile young player who is comfortably taller than 7-feet doing all kinds of positive stuff on both ends of the court.
He is not got the name, game or location to win Most Improved Player this year, but the Magic will not care. He has been a huge success and is so important to the franchise already.