The Utah Jazz went into draft night with a bunch of picks and came out of it, hopefully, with a bunch of players. We'll do one Downbeat on each player, starting with the #52 pick in the draft, Weber State's Joel Bolomboy! Joel is a 6'9 player with an acceptable wingspan of 7'1.75" (less than guys like Ante Zizic, Skal Labissiere, and Henry Ellenson; but longer than Ben Bentil if that means anything). In socks he's about the same height as Cheick Diallo (6'7.50"), but Cheick has a 7'4.50" wingspan as a point of reference. It's not really all about measurements, it's really about what you can do with your body that matters. And for Joel, well, he has a 40.5" vertical jump, reached that massive 12' height barrier that only six other players in his draft class did (Thon Maker, Michael Fusek, Zhou Qi, Brice Johnson, Damian Jones, and Pascal Siakam), while clocking in at the 12th fastest 3/4 court sprint out of all the test players. Yes, he was faster than a lot of wings and point guards. He was slower than Key Felder (Kahlil Felder) and faster than Wade Baldwin IV. For reals. Oh, and only one dude has bigger hands him than, Jakob Poeltl.
It you add it all up you hope this is a basketball player. Personally, I think so.
Joel Bolomboy doesn't have NBA players in his family, unlike some other guys in this draft. But he's certainly on his way to being the first in his. His father is African (from The Congo), and his mother is European (from Russia) and he was born in The Ukraine. ( says "hi!") Of course, Kiev is an actually big city so it's not like he was born in the wilderness or anything. He did grow up in the United States and went through high school in Fort Worth, Texas. (Which isn't the wilderness either, despite me making fun of it whenever I go there.) The bigman was garnering interesting from some larger stature schools, like Clemson (a PF academy: Horace Grant, Larry Nance, , Elden Campbell, Tree Rollins, Randolph Mahaffey, , Sharone Wright, and others), Auburn, and Florida State. He says that Weber State won out because they'd give him a shot to play and be a rotation player in his Freshman season. (He did play in 37 games that year, and over 20 mpg each time!)
After four seasons in the big Sky conference he finished with records for being the ALl-Time leader rebounder there. He was also the Big Sky conference Defensive Player of the year twice (2014, 2016), and was 1st Team All-Big Sky this year. Of course, all of that hardware may pale in comparison to being the Big Sky Player of the Year, joining a list that includes , , Ruben Nembhard, Chris Childs, and Larry Krystkowiak (three times!). He was also an AP Honorable Mention All-American this year.
His on-court performance and hardware surely put him on the map for a lot of Pre-Draft talk. His agent obviously thought he wouldn't make it in the 40s of the NBA Draft, but the Jazz were able to pick him up at #52, so this shows that Sports Agents don't know everything. NBA Draft heads do not either. On my consensus big board he was #57 (close...), and 17 mocks or big boards had him listed. The highest was at 40 and the lowest was at 62. The average of his ranks was 53.1, so that's pretty close as well. For what it is worth, in my final mock I had the Jazz picking him. But at #60.
I'm convinced that he has a shot to make it in the NBA. If he's anything like the players he wants to play like, he will definitely make a roster some time over the next three seasons. Bolomboy wants to play like Dennis Rodman, , , and Blake Griffin. Tenacity on defense and getting after rebounds are important to him. Some people see some in him, and that's not bad either.
If anything, I'm very impressed with his in-gaming dunking ability. That means a lot to me. I like it when bigmen realize that they can dunk, I'm not a huge fan of all the lay ups attempted and missed by our bigs over the last few seasons.
Breaking down his stats, for his career he played in 130 games and 3,743 total minutes over his four year NCAA career. In that time (28.8 mpg) he was able to finish with a double double (11.4 ppg and 10.1 rpg) while adding in some blocks and assists along the way. He was an above .500 shooter overall, and was above .700 from the free throw line; however, he dipped under that in his Senior season. The intriguing part is his nascent three point shot. He went 0/0 as a Freshman and then 1/1 as a Sophomore. In his Junior year he got more of a green light and shot 15 for 41 in 30 games, that's shooting 1.4 threes a game, and making .366 of them. Last year, his Senior, had him hoisting up 1.7 threes a game, and hitting .364 from downtown. If you add it all up it's a guy who has made 36 threes in 97 tries, for 37.1% from the NCAA three. If Joel can space the floor at an NBA level he's immediately more valuable than previously percieved. Or, if he grows three more inches, then there's really no problem as he's our back-up center. I don't think the 22 year old is going to grow from 6'9 though, so it's up to him to keep expanding his game.
As a college Senior his stat-line was 17.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.1 apg, and 0.7 spg while shooting the ball 10.2 times a game, and getting to the line 6.9 times a game. There's some diversity to his game, for sure -- but it's all really focused around interior play at this point and his ridiculously high motor and superhuman athleticism. If you like Advanced stats, his Senior year PER was 29.1. If you don't like per, his Win Shares were 6.5 in 33 games. If you don't like WS but like BPM he was 3.5. If you don't like those metrics, he got the defensive rebound 31.3% of the time there was an available one to get.
Not into stats at all, but into winning? Well, they went to the NCAA Tournament last season, their 16th time ever. Not bad for this Mid-Major.
I do need to get back to the numbers, though. This is a guy who is working on implementing an outside shot (nearly 2 threes a game, making over 36%) while also still being a guy on his team taking more than 10 shots a game and shooting over 57% from the field as a college Senior. By direct comparison, Trevor Booker shot 52% and 27% from deep as a Senior at Clemson back in the day, while shooting more two pointers and fewer threes.
Food for thought, at the very least.
Outside of offense, Bolomboy's greatest asset is his rebounding. He makes sure that the other team is no longer on offense, and he does that by actually going out there and getting the ball off the glass. If there are other guys out there to defend the shooter and spot up options I have no doubt that he will find a way to get the board to finish the defensive set. You don't rebound "by accident". You rebound with effort. That's one thing this guy has plenty of.
Okay. The following scouting info is taken from Kevin O'Connor (SB Nation, not Utah Jazz) and his amazing NBA Draft guide. (Which you can still buy, if you wish) It paints an interesting picture (even if the shot chart data isn't there).
Other professional scouts had very similar things to say, but I felt like this was the tidiest way of putting that info out there. With his size, length, and athleticism he projects to be someone who can grow into an NBA level defender. He doesn't appear to have a lot of lower body strength (he has great lower body for explosive jumping, but not for holding ground) and that's a key to post defense. He can get up there to help. I do think that with his mobility and poor fundamentals he would be a huu-uuge target on the pick and roll if he gets switched onto a ball handler. Of course, the vast majority of ball handlers always go against the bigman in those cases, so it's nothing novel.
Offensively he reminds me a lot of. While most people would rather liken him to (especially with the rebounding proficiency, that Delta D thing I wrote about a few years back that everyone lost their minds over), but I see more of Evans in him. Evans got the ball because he was an athletic freak. Millsap because he boxed out and knew where the ball was going. Bolomboy plays above the rim and makes highlight plays. But I need to see more than just dunks at the NBA level. Usually if you are like 6'9 and under 230 pounds you're a tall small forward. Playing power is going to require him to expand his range and get heftier.
When you directly compare him to, who is younger by two years, who has a much more robust offensive game (not just shooting range or runners or passing) it's clear why one was a lottery pick and the other a 2nd rounder after four years of college play. Of course, Lyles didn't get a chance to show everything he could do as a player back in the NCAA, and he really surprised me. It's possible that Bolomboy is similarly filled with hidden talent including range.
Videos! First up, Utah Jazz VP of player personnel Walt Perrin talks about Joel before the draft (via KSL)
And now for some more game film, here's a newly uploaded vid of him (via JustBombsProductions):
And of course, the ever popular Draft Express interview that is a MUST WATCH:
If what he says is true, that his three point shot a) exists, and b) is more developed than people thought then lots of draft scouts (including amateurs like myself) are wrong about him. And as a result, the Jazz have another steal.
So this is where we get to the 'bad news' if there is one. And it's not bad news for the Utah Jazz, let's not be silly. It could possibly be just a challenge for our draft pick though. We have to look at the depth chart as it currently stands. For bigmen it's pretty loaded:
- (1st string power forward, 2nd string center)
- (1st string center)
- Trey Lyles (2nd string power forward, can fill in at small forward and center depending on injuries)
- (3rd string center)
- Joel Bolomboy (3rd string power forward) [If he makes the team]
- (4th string center)
If Bolomboy makes the team he is pretty much only over Pleiss in the depth chart. And at that only because Favors bumps all the other centers down a notch by being able to claim minutes there regularly. Furthermore, Bolomboy making the team only exists in a world where he plays really well in summer league and training camp, *and* the team doesn't add any other bigmen in NBA Free Agency. There's a chance to upgrade this roster in July. An actual stretch big at power forward (if the team can get one) shakes things up a bit and drops Joel down to 4th string power forward, and likely out of the NBA. Of course, the team is more likely to make a trade or two that involves free agency, and not sign a guy outright. As a result, Joel may make the team if other guys are traded away . . . or he, himself, may be traded.
It's going to be tough to make the team, but if he did he could add some energy. I believe that Trevor Booker may be able to get a big raise this off-season, and if that was to happen it's likely that it wouldn't be with the Jazz. Book played about 20 minutes a game last year. Depending on what the roster looks like there could be about 5 to 10 minutes available for a 2nd round rookie. Or not. It's not likeis the coach of this team anymore -- but let's not forget that Paul Millsap, a 2nd round rookie, played 18.0 mpg for him; Jeremy Evans, also a 2nd round rookie, played just 9.4 mpg under similar circumstances. If Joel is going to make the team and deserve playing time it's going to be on him and the development of his somewhat limited offensive game. Millsap did diversify and add skills. Evans did not.
I hope that Bolomboy makes(Color commentator) say "Boy oh Boy" at least seven times this season.