We didn’t necessarily get the fireworks we hoped for from the 2020 NBA Draft, but numerous questions arose. Does Anthony Edwards have any shot of reaching his full potential? What in the world are the Timberwolves going to do at power forward? And who the hell is Leandro Bolmaro?
Short answer: we don’t really know yet.
What? That wasn’t sufficient? Alright, fine. Leandro Bolmaro is a 6’7” Argentinian guard who plays for Barcelona. After reading “Argentinian,” I know your first thoughts immediately go to the well-rounded Manu Ginobili or the sharpshooting Carlos Delfino. Bolmaro has shades (very, very subtle shades) of Ginobili’s game, Bolmaro grew up playing for Ginobili’s brother, but he is a very different player from either Ginobili or Delfino.
When the pick was initially made, to call my reaction as frustrated would be putting it lightly. I didn’t see those later picks being used to their fullest potential and didn’t understand the point of trading up for a draft-and-stash player when the likelihood of a team ahead of the Timberwolves taking Bolmaro was slim. Overall, it was gross mismanagement of assets and a draft pick when there were still players like Desmond Bane, Tyrell Terry, and Elijah Hughes available.
So, who is this massive guard we supposedly wasted a pick on? With Barcelona this season (16 games), Bolmaro is averaging 3.2 points, 1.4 assists, one rebound, 0.4 steals, and 0.2 blocks with 27/19/89 shooting splits in just under 12 minutes per game. Yikes.
Well, let’s look at the previous season. Perhaps that will provide more promising numbers. In 24 games, split between their A and B teams but mostly with Barcelona’s B team, Bolmaro averaged 8 points, 2.4 assists, 1.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.1 blocks with 42/29/71 shooting splits in 17 minutes per game.
Those are certainly more encouraging numbers, but they should be considering he spent so much of his time playing lesser competition. On the surface, this pick does nothing but cause frustration for a myriad of reasons. Bolmaro likely won’t come over for another season at the earliest. He is also an awful shooter, and his scoring ability, in general, has fallen off a cliff this season. Last time I checked, the Timberwolves have plenty of guards who aren’t good shooters. I continue not to see the value in this pick.
As the emotions subside and rational resurfaces, I remember the numerous games I watched of Bolmaro. I remember thinking, if a few things go right, this kid could be an excellent piece in a few years. I remember craving his intensity and work rate on the Timberwolves. I remember that there is more to basketball than just shooting (although it is incredibly helpful and tends to solve many problems).
As I awoke and got on with my day, I went back through my film of Bolmaro and my previous scouting reports to rebuild that base knowledge of his game. As it usually does, the film showed so much more than numbers ever can.
When you start up a Bolmaro game, it doesn’t take long to find him on the court. The dead give away is looking for the guy who is outworking everyone else. Another go-to is, who is that massive lead ball-handler?
One of the most significant selling points with LaMelo Ball was his brilliant playmaking paired with his impressive height. As you watch Bolmaro, it is hard not to get similar vibes. In no way is Bolmaro the prospect or player that Ball is, so settle down, but there are flashes of that massive offensive initiator with a proclivity for the highlight pass.
Bolmaro isn’t in the elite tier of playmakers in this draft class with the likes of Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, and Killian Hayes, but he certainly thinks he is. Bolmaro’s floor vision is unusually impressive for someone with so few minutes played at a high level. He finds cutters, sets up shooters, and makes it easy for the roll man.
He is eager to run in transition, and his live dribble passing is atypical for a player his size.
The assists you’ll find in Bolmaro’s highlight packages aren’t too dissimilar to those of Ball or Hayes or Haliburton. They are much less frequent, but the results make you wonder what could be.
Herein lies the value of watching complete games, though, and not just highlight clips. When Bolmaro is mindful and precise with his ball security, he can produce true genius. However, he pulls off brilliance almost as frequently as he throws the ball away.
He will cave under pressure and throw passes to no one in particular. His eagerness to create the extraordinary often ends up as much less than. His skill set suggests he should be a point guard, but if he can’t take care of the ball and eliminate his careless passes and reckless drives without a plan into congestion, his offensive fit becomes much more clouded.
Turnovers can be forgiven, to an extent, if a player contributes to offense in another way like scoring. Eons will pass before Bolmaro is ever relied on as a scorer.
His shooting form doesn’t have anything that makes you pucker up in disgust, but it is consistently little things that throw off his shot. He will have late leg flares that throw off his balance or inconsistent arc or fall out of his shot too early. I am certainly not counting on Bolmaro developing into a good shooter. Still, there is a tiny, minuscule glimmer of hope that analytics darlings can cling to with their dying breath. Since last season, Bolmaro’s free throw percentage has skyrocketed from 71 percent to 89 percent.
Sound the alarms; we’ve got a shooter on our hands! As you know, free throw shooting is the number one indicator of who will be a good shooter. Well, in Bolmaro’s case, not entirely. Bolmaro averages under two free throws per game, so any make or miss will significantly fluctuate in his percentage. Shooting 89 percent from the line is encouraging, and I certainly hope it holds. However, until we see substantial change and a legitimate sample size, I will stick with Bolmaro’s 19 percent from three on 1.3 attempts per game as an indicator to suggest that he is not only a lousy shooter but also has no confidence to shoot.
The likelihood of Bolmaro’s shot turning a corner anytime soon is slim, but one avenue that he can further explore to improve his scoring is attacking the rim. Due to Bolmaro’s size, he is frequently operating in a size mismatch. He has the strength and height to bully smaller defenders and the speed and agility to burn by larger defenders.
I know we covered Bolmaro’s worrisome ball security, but when his handle is tight, ooh-wee is it sexy.
Having a tight handle like that combined with the size and strength to finish through defenders is rare. Having Bolmaro on the floor as a point guard creates numerous mismatches as his size is difficult for any defender to deal with when he attacks the rim.
Bolmaro’s offensive game is far from a selling point, but his defense is where the fascination kicks in. With his size, Bolmaro can effortlessly switch on the perimeter. He also outworks everyone else on the floor as he fights through screens and picks up ball handlers full court.
Bolmaro is the guy in a pick-up game who just got done playing college ball and is trying to relive the glory days while everyone else is just out there trying to get a decent sweat in after work.
The pure effort that Bolmaro exerts on defense has to be exhausting for opponents to deal with. His size allows him to switch on larger wings, while his speed allows him to suffocate smaller guards.
His floor recognition also makes him a strong team defender. He can deny passing lanes, tag cutters, and protect the rim from the weakside. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but his timing and size allow him to be an adequate shot blocker.
Bolmaro’s relentless defense causes tremendous amounts of disruption for opposing teams. When he causes turmoil and turnovers ensue, Bolmaro is more than capable and eager to turn defense into instant offense.
Bolmaro gives off vibes of a bigger Ricky Rubio. He isn’t that level of player because Rubio is a far superior passer. Calm down; I don’t mean to blaspheme the almighty Spanish Unicorn.
Bolmaro is far from a finished product. He desperately needs to develop a scoring ability, so he isn’t utterly negligible on offense. When (if) Bolmaro comes over in a year or two, he will provide excellent size and defense alongside D’Angelo Russell. Look at me thinking this team will be nearly the same in a year or two, how cute.
After reevaluating my previous notions of Bolmaro, I still wouldn’t have made that trade and taken him. There were other players still available who would have contributed immediately. However, my immediate reaction of complete disgust and despair has evaporated and evolved into a stance of optimism.
In a season where the Timberwolves will likely look to cut money to avoid the tax, having a developmental player stashed overseas in a top league and not on the roster is far from a negative. Bolmaro’s size, playmaking potential, and defense are all tools that are exciting to look forward to.
Leandro Bolmaro wasn’t the best player available when they drafted him. Still, he does give the team more short-term flexibility while also engendering hope as he continues his development overseas.