A unicorn has become a modern phrase describing these unbelievably tall and long ballers that can handle the ball and shoot like a point guard. The expression was initially coined by Kevin Durant, who described 7’3″ Kristaps Porzingis as a unicorn because of his unique basketball skill set. Conveniently, Kevin Durant also fits under that same category as a 6’11” sniper with better handles than a lot of point guards. There aren’t too many athletes that even have the frame to qualify, but there is one that sticks out like a sore thumb in this years draft and comes with a familiar name.
Bol Bol, the son of the NBA’s tallest player ever Manute Bol (7’7″), heads into the NBA draft after a freshman season that was cut short at Oregon; which might be the only thing that holds him back from NBA stardom.
At 7’3″ inches with a 7’8″ wingspan, Bol only needs to jump four inches to touch the rim. He was a highly touted recruit in high school, not just because of his incredible frame, but his mobility and basketball skills for his size. Bol can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, shoot like a shooting guard, and of course, protect the rim as few others can. He has the full tool kit under his belt, and although he was doubted by many going into college, his performance on the floor was jaw-dropping.
In his first nine games of collegiate basketball, Bol averaged 21.0 points on 56.1% shooting. More impressively, he shot 52% from behind the arc on 2.8 three-point attempts a game. That stroke translated to the free throw line as well. As a rebounder, he makes good use of his size and averaged a hair under ten a game. Bol also blocked 2.7 shots a contest and did so without committing many fouls.
There’s little about his performance at the collegiate level that can be knocked. The issue is that after those nine games Bol had to miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Big men, especially lanky ones over 7-feet tall, and foot injuries go together like syrup and waffles. Teams should be wary that this will be an ongoing issue, as it has been for these types of NBA prospects for years. Bol will also have to bulk up to be successful at the next level, which is never easy for a player his size. While his body is what makes him a potential unicorn, it may also be the thing that costs him his NBA career altogether.
I believe Bol has a Joel Embiid type ceiling. People have to remember he is only 19. Embiid wasn’t a fully developed body either at that age either. There is plenty of time to put on weight so he can hang with the strength in the NBA. It’s going to be challenging, but players like Embiid, Porzingis, and even Giannis have shown it is possible. The only thing that will truly hold him back is his health.
It’s more than fathomable to imagine Bol suffering another similar injury a year from now, resulting in his entire career coming into question. That is the kind of risk you take with a prospect like this, but the reward could be the next building block of a Hawks dynasty. If I know one thing about Travis Schlenk; he’s not afraid to swing for the fences in the draft. Bol’s a gamble, but the price might be right.