The fun part of rebuilds is looking at what could be.
Through all the mist of mistakes and miscues, there are chances taken and second chances given. Everyone looks for bright spots and reasons to believe in the future.
More than that, rebuilds are good for young players because the pressure for results does not exist. Players can explore their games with few consequences — other than the teaching and instruction not to repeat mistakes. Experience is the greatest teacher.
Sometimes that is all a player needs. They just need experience and the freedom to go out and play.
When Bol Bol arrived in Orlando during the 2022 season, that is what he was seeking. In the few minutes he played, it was clear the 7-foot-2 big man had talent. He had guard skills for his size in a league that increasingly valued this kind of versatility.
Injuries slowed him down while he was in Denver, but the Denver Nuggets also had the most intense pressure in the league — the quest for the championship. They did not have time to develop a still-raw big man even with his skills.
Orlando did have that space. And the Orlando Magic gave Bol all the opportunity he could want.
Unfortunately for Bol, things have changed for this team. They are transitioning out of that free-wheeling rebuild stage. They are no longer the franchise for second chances and second draft opportunities.
The Orlando Magic are moving on to the next phase of a rebuilding team as they waived Bol Bol, giving up a chance to develop a talented player in favor of more solid veterans on the roster.
The players are all saying what they believe the outcome of their season will be. Management may be talking only about the generalities of improving and “leveling up.” But either way, it is clear the Magic are entering a new phase of their rebuild.
A phase that no longer has room for someone like Bol.
The Magic officially waived Bol Bol on Tuesday, the final necessary move to bring the roster to 15 with the reported signings of Joe Ingles and Moe Wagner to come. That leaves the Magic with just their two remaining two-way contracts to fill.
Getting consistent playing time for the first time in his career, Bol averaged 9.1 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game. He shot 54.6 percent from the floor and 26.5 percent from beyond the arc.
He was a key part of the team early in the season as the Magic experienced injuries to the guard position. Orlando often opted to start him at forward and slide Franz Wagner to shooting guard, creating a “jum-Bol” lineup that a lot of team struggled to deal with.
In the first 37 games of the season, Bol averaged 12.0 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game with shooting splits of 58.8/38.8/73.9.
He was a true revelation with his ability to grab rebounds and glide down the court in transition. Defenses could not quite figure out how to stop him and when he had a head of steam behind him, he could change directions and weave through defenses with ease to finish with highlight-creating plays.
But he could not sustain that momentum. And as his offense started to wane in the second half of the season, his flaws became evident. Especially as the Magic got themselves back into the outskirts of the postseason chase and started to have bigger ambitions.
Bol’s 3-point shot started to leave him and he struggled to attack in the half-court. Bol was not much of a playmaker so when he was driving everyone knew to load up on him to try to score. Without that speed behind him, he became easily pressured into turnovers.
His defense also left a lot to be desired.
While Bol is a solid shot blocker due to his size and mobility, he was often late recognizing those rotations or he would lose his man on the weakside from watching the ball too much.
Where he averaged 26.1 minutes per game and started 32 games in the first 37 games of the Magic’s season, he averaged 16.3 minutes per game with one start in the final 33 games of the season. That included getting DNPs in seven of the final 10 games, only playing in the final three games after Orlando was eliminated from postseason contention.
The Magic still had some good moments with Bol on the floor — the team’s defense was better overall with him on the floor despite his seeming defensive shortcomings. But they were clearly not enough. His offense just could not keep up with the expectations he set at the start of the season.
In a rebuilding situation, Bol would be considered one of the bright spots. He would be a young player the team could continue investing in. He could even be considered a good reclamation project.
But Orlando is not in a rebuilding situation anymore. Having found their centerpiece players in Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter, the Magic are thinking a bit more about what this team needs to do to win. They are thinking about competing more seriously.
Their offseason moves suggest this too with the addition of rookies Anthony Black and Jett Howard now occupying the role of development projects. Everyone else has to be able to fill a role and help this team reach that winning goal.
Bol certainly has the potential to do so. What he did not have — what the Magic did not have anymore — was the time to give him the space to find it.
If there is as sure a sign that Orlando is expecting a lot more from this season, it is the decision to let a player with Bol’s potential and ability go. The Magic simply do not have the space to let Bol make mistakes and explore every facet of his game.
Bol is a young player who needs an environment that can let him explore including making mistakes as he learns from experience. That is the only way he can get better.
The Magic do not have that anymore. They are aiming for bigger goals and they will not have as much patience for more veteran players to make the kinds of mistakes Bol made.
Orlando already made its decision in reducing his minutes later into the season. And so this decision seemed inevitable.
The Magic are moving on from Bol. And now they are moving on to a new phase in their development.