The Phoenix Suns quelled any talk of full-blown panic around the organization with a 120-106 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon. Their second game of a three game Eastern Conference swing, and their second straight early start which took them to 3-4 on the young season.
This win was not pretty – the first half in particular as disjointed as you will see from this team – but behind a 40 piece from who else but Kevin Durant, the Suns pulled out the win. Which was just as well, as the loss to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before was the second game that Devin Booker was out injured. A calf complaint the problem this time.
One player who saw three minutes of action in the Pistons win, but who has been buried on the bench for most of the season so far, is Bol Bol.
The enigmatic big finding consistent time on the court hard to come by. In fact, his 3.5 minutes played per game across only two contests is the fewest amount of minutes he’s ever averaged in his career. A far cry from the 21.5 he posted only a season ago in 70 games with the Orlando Magic.
Not that the lack of game time or inability to crack the rotation dampened the enthusiasm of Pistons legend Isaiah Thomas, who was in attendance at the game and had the below to say about Bol.
There was a time when calling Bol a kind of “Wembanyama-lite” type of player might not have been outrageous. But that was a year ago, when Bol was being a do it all type player for a Magic roster decimated by injuries and with Wembanyama playing basketball in France.
To compare the two now is to massively disrespect the game of “Wemby”, who only recently hung 38 points on the Suns as his San Antonio Spurs beat Bol and the Suns twice in three nights in The Valley. Not that Bol was of any use to his team, he didn’t play in either loss because head coach Frank Vogel didn’t see fit to insert him into the game.
Can Bol handle the ball, and even pass some as well? He can, and in fact the player himself revealed at media day before the season began that even he is not sure where his best position is on the court. He may have a similar body type to Wembanyama, but Bol enjoys operating outside of the paint and can pass, handle and shoot some.
But for Thomas to compare Bol to Wembanyama in any way at this point is disrespectful to the rookie phenom. He is better in every way to his counterpart, and although Thomas didn’t mention the defensive side of the ball, it is there that there really is no contest between the two. Wembanyama could finish top five in Defensive Player of the Year as soon as this season.
The only point Thomas may have here is that Bol should be getting a little bit more run. It shouldn’t take until the dying embers of the Pistons game to get some scraps. Similarly against the Utah Jazz last month, Bol saw four minutes of action, and didn’t take a single shot in that span.
There has to be some reason why the franchise added him to their roster this season, and the thinking had been that during the regular season that Bol could provide a different offensive look for the group. But with Booker out injured and Beal yet to make his debut, Bol has been no closer to a rotational role with the Suns.
Then again, Bol was glued to the bench for the Magic last season once they got their main guys back. They were chasing the play-in tournament – a goal they did not achieve – and didn’t think Bol could help down the stretch when it really mattered. Defensively he was just too porous for Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley to rely upon him.
Why then did the Suns add him to what they believe is a contending roster? Keita Bates-Diop is another player who struggled for game time early on, but even he has seen an uptick in minutes in the last few games. When he plays, it is obvious why the Suns signed him as well.
The same cannot be said of Bol right now, and nice as it was for Isaiah Thomas to point out how good he believes the player is and what he brings to the Suns, the reality is that right now this is not the case. Given the offensive struggles of the team and the fact Bol remains on the bench, it is hard to know if he will ever be what the Suns hoped he could be.