Denver Nuggets: Could Bol Bol have a Linsanity-like stretch in Orlando Bubble?

Bol Bol had a great first showing with the Denver Nuggets

Bol Bol had not seen any minutes at the professional level before Wednesday afternoon. Who knew that it would take a pandemic and a halted season to get the Denver Nuggets to roll out the best five-man lineup in league history, which included Bol Bol (at the three!).

The Nuggets could get very tall in the postseason, and this was the first real-game signal of that.

This is 2020. Nothing surprises us. Not anymore.

And you know what sure as heck wouldn’t shock me? If Bol Bol continued streaking in the Orlando bubble, putting on a streak similar to that of Jeremy Lin at Madison Square Garden donning a New York Knicks jersey in 2012.

What’s the deal with Bol Bol, anyway?

Let’s back up a bit. Bol Bol was drafted with the 44th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Bol, the son of the legendary big man (like, really big — 7-foot-7) Manute Bol, has a lengthy, wiry frame and decent handles for a player of his size.

Bol also hit over 50 percent of his 25 3-point attempts in his lone season in Oregon, where he played just 9 games.

Bol has the raw materials to turn into a center that could fit right into the modern game, but there were and are plenty of question marks about how he’ll conjure this into a recipe that puts him in a position to succeed on a regular basis at the pro level.

  • Can Bol Bol add muscle to his currently thin frame (and more importantly, does he need to?)
  • Can his 3-point shot sustain at a high volume?
  • Are there persistent injury concerns with Bol?

These are questions that won’t be answered overnight, and can’t be answered with confidence a full year after he was drafted. Bol played just eight games in the G League this year (the season was halted and canceled due to the pandemic) and averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. He shot 36.4 percent beyond the arc in 1.4 attempts per game.

Bol Bol had a huge first game in a Nuggets uniform

Some caveats before I toot Bol Bol’s horn:

  • This was an exhibition game
  • This was the first highly competitive game each of his opponents and teammates had played in quite some time. To his credit, that is also true of Bol Bol, but often in situations like this it gives way for raw talent to shine through to an extreme degree

Bol Bol checked in and, um, well, he did this:

That’s an impressive behind-the-play block on one end, and a silky transition pull-up three on the other.

Not an eye test person? OK. Bol Bol was the Nuggets’ second-highest scorer, putting up 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 assist. On the downside, Bol hit 2 of his 8 3-point attempts.

Can Bol Bol have a streak like Jeremy Lin during Linsanity?

Linsanity was a ballistic frenzy in Madison Square Garden in which an unlikely hero in Jeremy Lin led the Knicks to a handful of wins after being called up from the team’s G League roster.

The birth of Linsanity can be placed from February 4, 2012, until February 15, 2012. The Knicks won 7 straight games and Lin averaged 24.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 9.1 assists. Over the course of the rest of that season, Lin averaged 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 7.7 assists.

The Knicks have only won more than 7 games in a row twice since Linsanity kicked off.

Jeremy Lin went on to have a great role-playing career, winning a title with the Toronto Raptors last season, but he didn’t ever grow into the star role that some overzealous Knicks fans might have pictured him in during the early days of Linsanity. His streak in MSG was one of those sports moments that left us all going, “did that really happen?”

Could this be what we see from Bol Bol in the bubble (Bubble Bol has a nice ring to it, we’ll need to establish a catchy name at some point)?

Especially with the first few rounds of playing time he’ll get, Bol will be playing in scrimmages that mean practically nothing. They’re designed to allow players to get back into the flow of things and get their pep back, not for players to necessarily enforce their will.

So it’s certainly possible that Bol could put up stat lines similar to the one we saw Wednesday as well as more flashy plays that you might not expect from such a raw talent. Teams will still be trying to figure him out, and it could be the perfect recipe for a big streak of games.

If it does continue to the point where it takes on a character name like Linsanity, it won’t be exactly the same. Linsanity was largely fueled by the raucous energy of MSG, here, in the bubble, it’ll be mostly quiet with no spectators. And with no one to see it, it could easily have that feeling of, “did that really happen?” that Linsanity had.

Given Bol’s quiet demeanor, maybe that fits.

Perhaps I’m underselling the potential on Bol’s career by likening his first game to that of Jeremy Lin. It’s unfair to expect too much or too little of such a fresh prospect, in all reality, especially in a climate where it’s hard to know what to expect from even the most proven of NBA players.

I know this, though — I’ll be tuning in to watch Bol Bol’s next game, and his performance captivated plenty of people to want to do the same thing as well. That’s the first step to an all-out frenzy.

Next: Nuggets: How Murray will define postseason hopes
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