It’s been reported recently that Jonah Bolden will not be joining the Philadelphia 76ers this coming season, but will instead be heading to Israel.
While the prospect of seeing Bolden-Simmons alley oops has been delayed for a season (at least), it might not be the worst scenario. Bolden has shown flashes of an exciting, all-around skillset that could vastly improve the Sixers, but his addition is not going to make an immediate impact to the squad.
Here are some observations from Jonah Bolden’s Summer League stint.
1. NBA-level shooting
Bolden proved himself to be a capable shooter in his last season with Serbia’s Belgrade FMP, shooting 40.5% on 4.2 attempts per game, from the three-point line (stats).
That hasn’t proved to be the case in Summer League. The confidence was there, but Bolden’s shooting was inconsistent at best – he was 31.4% from downtown (11 of 35) across 8 games (stats). In his final Summer League game against the Chicago Bulls, Bolden only made 1 of 5 shots from the three-point arc, in 19 minutes played.
Having said that, the Summer League is a limited look into Bolden’s adjustment to shooting at the NBA level. The amount of games played offer a small sample size; 35 three-point attempts do not offer anything conclusive at this point of time.
Most importantly? Bolden has plenty of time to get better at shooting, especially against a tougher level of defence in Europe. It’s not the NBA, but it’s not the Summer League either, where offence reigns, and defence is more often than not, an afterthought.
2. Defensive energy
Defence was most definitely high on Bolden’s list in the Summer League.
“One of the things I wanted to prove and show was my defensive versatility,” Bolden said, when Sixers.com’s Brian Seltzer asked about his defensive plays.
“Just my activity on the defensive end, being able to switch one through five and I did play a lot of five today… just my energy and my activity and what I can do to help on the defensive end.”
The young forward displayed an unmatched tenacity on defence, and gave it his all every moment.
In this possession, Bolden ran back on transition to stop the break, took the switch onto a smaller player and even came up with the steal.
So much from Bolden here, transition defense and then devours Dejounte Murray along perimeter, gets the steal and outlet pass. Impressive! pic.twitter.com/SEaBFLe95b
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) July 10, 2017
Bolden pokes the ball away from Tatum for the steal and then makes a nice mid-air adjustment on the layup. He's been GREAT this week! pic.twitter.com/iq2IhSD42W
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) July 11, 2017
Hosting block parties. Everyone loves those.
Jonah Bolden says NOT TODAY, SIR!
Bolden with 9 points, 4 rebounds & 4 blocks in his Summer League debut. pic.twitter.com/3yYb9bvpE5
— The Pick and Roll (@PickandRollAU) July 4, 2017
“He’s surprisingly better than I thought,” Brown had said, during the Las Vegas Summer League. “I think that he is a modern day player. He is able to stretch the court and legitimately shoot NBA threes.”
“His ability to run the floor and the athleticism is noticed. His ability to switch out on NBA point guards and guard them is also evident. He’s a lot better than we anticipated.”
Defensive versatility was listed as one of Bolden’s strengths, coming into the NBA draft. Having said that, Bolden’s breakout defence was certainly not on the Sixers’ radar, and he certainly impressed the team, enough that they were reconsidering their options.
3. NBA readiness
Bolden’s ability to play in the big man spots on both ends, make him a valuable asset in the modern NBA. It’s not a stretch to say he is ready for the NBA, even without an additional year in Israel.
The NBA is trending towards a five-out formation, where all five players on the court are capable of stretching the floor with deep shooting. Whilst Bolden is still raw, his blend of size and skill makes him a perfect fit in the league as a big man who can roll to the rim, or pop out for a shot, without conceding too much on defence.
Consider Bolden’s positives: three-point shooting, tenacious, versatile defence and playmaking instincts. Incidentally, these are all qualities Draymond Green brings to the Golden State Warriors as a stretch five.
It’s too early to project Bolden’s ceiling as Draymond Green, although Kevin O’Connor did have Bolden in his Draymond Green Summer League All-Stars lineup. Bolden isn’t going to be a unicorn-level talent like Kristaps Porzingis or Karl Anthony-Towns either. That’s not to say we should dismiss Bolden’s future. Should his potential be fulfilled, his role as a versatile stretch forward/centre brings plenty of promise to the 76ers’ roster, and deepens their front court considerably.
More importantly, his addition to the future Boomers roster could only bode well for future campaigns, especially the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Andrew Bogut has set his sights on joining the 2020 squad, but the additions of young, modern centers like Thon Maker and Jonah Bolden presents a fresh new look for the Boomers’ front court, that could very well change the way the Boomers run their offence entirely.
There’s plenty to look forward to, when it comes to Jonah Bolden.