Despite their insistence on a philosophy of small ball, the Toronto Raptors are being hampered by a lack of size for the second consecutive season. A seven-footer with defensive skills, like Jaxson Hayes or Bol Bol, would be a major boost for this team.
Defensively, Toronto leads the league in steals at 9.9 per game. As encouraging as that is, Nick Nurse has been getting eviscerated in the paint. The Raptors also lead the league in deflections with 383, but they can’t rebound defensively and surrender offensive boards with concerning regularity. The lack of bench skill is equally concerning.
Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster need to find a center if they want to make sure this team is a viable playoff contender. This duo should be enquiring about the availability of Bol, should the Denver Nuggets look to move him, to bolster the frontcourt.
This team’s identity is built on defense requires hustle, effort, quickness, and being alert. The deflections and steals represent most of those attributes, but fail to account for what completes a defensive possession, a rebound. This is where Bol could be a difference-maker.
The Toronto Raptors should target Bol Bol.
Nurse is known as a controlled chaos innovator who can get his team to switch up their schemes. However, this primary style of defense becomes much harder to execute whenever the designated center is getting manhandled on the interior.
Bol would provide what Nurse and the Raptors’ roster lacks due to his measurables. Like his dad, former shot-blocking master Manute Bol, Bol is taller than the average guy at 7-2. He is also concerningly slim like his dad, weighing just 220 pounds. However, Bol is more than just the defensive phenom his father was.
The former top recruit and Oregon star could help the Raptors with floor spacing thanks to his more than credible three-point shooting. In his brief spurts of playing time, Bol has shown competency in handling the ball on offense.
His height would make opposing guards hesitate when passing into the post, and his wingspan would only help with the deflections and steals the Raptors are proud of. He should round into a decent shot-blocker as well. At the collegiate level, he averaged 2.7 blocks and 9.6 rebounds per game.
He has averaged five minutes per game since his rookie season. At this point, he has racked up 10 DNP-CD this season. Bol does not appear to be in Denver’s immediate plans.
His usage has been so sporadic that in a recent game vs. Miami, in which Nikola Jokic was ejected, Bol was inserted into the game to take free throws for his teammate then immediately subbed back out of the game.
At some point, head coach Mike Malone had high hopes for Bol, as he stated in an interview via the Denver Post in 2020:
"“For him to have those numbers in his first game against NBA competition is great, but what really excites me is not that game, but how much room he has to continue to grow,” Malone said. “And he will because he is so young, and he will improve and the sky is definitely the limit for him.”"
Denver is a unique situation. With a league MVP in Jokic playing Bol’s position, there is minimal justification to take minutes away from a player of that caliber.
If the Raptors could acquire Bol via a trade, they could audition him from now until the end of his fourth season when he becomes an RFA. Should he be capable or show progression especially at the defensive end of the floor, a contract extension could be offered next fall at the earliest.
Either way, if the Raptors want to be a truly elite defensive team, they need to start winning defensive possessions. If Bol improves their rebounding and defense while coming into his own on offense, he should be able to earn some playing time and beef up Toronto’s frontcourt.