Last year, the NBA Draft Lottery handed the Minnesota Timberwolves a much-needed respite, bumping them up from their original draft position for the first time in franchise history. It was a stroke of fortune that helped them snag Anthony Edwards and perhaps set themselves up for the future with a star wing in tow.
This time around, Lady Luck was back to her discourteous ways, and the Timberwolves dropped to the seventh pick in the upcoming draft and were forced to hand over their pick to the Golden State Warriors, putting a bow on the trade that saw D’Angelo Russell and Andrew Wiggins swap cities.
Without a pick this year, Minnesota will quickly pivot to other avenues to bring in more talent and help catapult themselves into the playoff picture. Selected last August between Edwards, the ebullient youngster with game enough to match his Hollywood personality, and the stoic but equally potential-laden Jaden McDaniels was Leandro Bolmaro; the international man of mystery. He isn’t Edwards and he isn’t McDaniels, but Bolmaro is dripping in a deep-thinking, salt-of-the-earth style, with a generous helping of South American panache to accompany it.
The Argentine never arrived in the Twin Cities after draft night, instead choosing to undertake an extra year of seasoning with Spanish giants FC Barcelona Bàsquet (commonly referred to as FC Barcelona or simply Barcelona). Barcelona plays in two different competitions, the domestic league with other Spanish teams is known as the Liga ACB, while the Euroleague is a collection of the best teams across Europe. Barcelona overcame Spanish rivals Real Madrid to claim the Liga ACB title, after losing a nail-biter in the Euroleague final against Turkish heavyweights Anadolu Efes in late May.
Now, with Minnesota missing out on a rookie from this year’s draft, it seems likely they will be looking to bring Bolmaro over to fill that void. Before the 2021 Draft Lottery, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas told Chris Hine from the Star Tribune about his plans for the youngster:
“We prepared accordingly. We drafted a player last year that has the opportunity to come this season in case there wasn’t a pick.” Rosas said. “We see opportunities where he can be good with us next year. Him and his representation feel the same way and once we have the opportunity to further those conversations we will.”
Whilst he didn’t get the valuable NBA time that Edwards and McDaniels did, the 20-year-old’s stock has spiked throughout Barcelona’s season. He was rightfully a first-rounder in 2020, and his latest campaign saw him graduate to full-time rotation player against some of the best non-NBA teams in the world. Bolmaro is bigger, stronger and more experienced and technically adept than he was on his draft night.
Since the Wolves pulled their annual vanishing act after the last night of the regular season, I’ve dedicated an inordinate amount of time into sourcing and studying Barcelona games and, obviously, Bolmaro in particular. In the name of simplicity, let’s break his game down into three different subsections: strengths, swing skills and weaknesses. Obviously, there is a lot of wiggle room and variance within those categories, but we can get into that in more detail as we dig deeper into his skill set. First, however, let’s start with the basics.
- Position: Point Guard/Combo Guard
- Age: 20.9
- Height: 6’7”
- Wingspan: 6’8”
- Weight: 185 pounds
- Liga ACB Basic Stats: 18.0 MPG - 8.2 PPG - 1.7 RPG - 2.1 APG - 0.5 SPG - 50% FG - 43.2% 3PT - 93.3% FT
- Liga ACB Per 36 Minute Stats: 16.2 PPG - 3.7 RPG - 4.5 APG - 2.2 SPG
- Euroleague Basic Stats: 9.8 MPG - 2.9 PPG - 1.1 RPG - 1.3 APG - 0.3 SPG - 40.8% FG - 38.1% 3PT - 78.6% FT
- Euroleague Per 36 Minute Stats: 10.7 PPG - 4.0 RPG - 4.8 APG - 1.0 SPG
Without question, Bolmaro’s most intriguing talent is his ability to act as a versatile and effective on-ball stopper. Unlike a prototypical point-of-attack deterrent, he doesn’t possess overwhelming length or strength to physically overpower his defenders, relying on other physical traits like fast hip flips and quick lateral movement skills that interweave with his innate pattern recognition and defensive technique in multiple aspects.
Unlike Barcelona’s incumbent starting point guard Nick Calathes (who was actually drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009), Bolmaro is a defensive-minded guard who head coach Šarūnas Jasikevičius trusted to bedevil dangerous scoring guards over every inch of the hardwood. Jasikevičius often turns to his young Argentine when Calathes’ offensive talents aren’t outweighing his defensive miscues, and Bolmaro rarely disappoints.
Bolmaro is a never-say-die kind of defender. A human energy drink who is happy to forego some offensive zeal to act as his man’s shadow for a night. Think of defense like a swordfight, and how there are multiple fighting styles that can be effective. Someone like McDaniels, for example, prefers to parry and counterattack, using his opponent’s aggressiveness against him. Bolmaro, on the other hand, is the type of swordsman to take the fight to his opponent, slashing away frantically in order to get a quick kill. Both effective. Both deadly.
Plays like the one below are a regular occurrence throughout a Barcelona game, where Bolmaro chases, scraps and claws his way through a screen and re-screen action at the top of the arc before tracking his man through the paint and under the hoop to force a late shot clock brick.
Or here, as he continues to hound his man through a screen and a near-turnover. It’s another perfect example of his hellacious attitude toward getting a defensive stop.
As you can see, Bolmaro is quickly becoming more and more proficient in screen negotiation; one of many areas of his game that has blossomed further since his name was called out by Adam Silver on draft night. He has a strength deficiency in most screening skirmishes, but his willingness to get in a stance every time down the floor and his capacity to make himself skinny to get over the top of screens and stay attached to the hip of his man or duck under picks and recover often lands him in good stead.
One of the key elements in the 20-year-old’s screen-brokering efforts is his preparation before the screener arrives. In the clip below, Bolmaro knows his opponent wants to drive with his dominant left hand (and thus the screener will come to Bolmaro’s right-hand side), so he jumps forward and to his left, spreading his stance to balance himself and forcing his center of gravity lower to aid his ability to spring over the screen with enough velocity. Now, he is already well on his way to breaking through the pick before it’s even set.
Sometimes great shot-making beats great defense, but defending at a high level is more about the process rather than the result. Bolmaro can do nothing but tip his cap to his opponent after he makes the tough leaner, but this is excellent point-of-attack defense from start to finish. This is the kind of basketball nous and the matching technique that you can expect from Bolmaro.
The ability to stay fused to the man with the ball is critical for relieving pressure on big defenders. Lackadaisical point-of-attack defense has plagued Minnesota for years and has simultaneously heaped pressure on Karl-Anthony Towns, often forcing him to try and contain two attackers when he’s had his fair share of troubles subduing one.
Here, NBA legend and Bolmaro’s teammate Pau Gasol is hedging the screening action, meaning if he is forced to step out to contain Bolmaro’s man the player rolling out of the screen will be left with a free lane to the rim. However, with Bolmaro half a beat behind but still staying close enough to contest any shot, the guard is forced to give the ball up and Gasol is in a position to rotate comfortably to the roll man and block the ensuing shot. This is what helping out your big in pick-and-roll coverage looks like.
One of the central reasons Bolmaro should be able to compete as a pick-and-roll guard defender is because, unlike a typical draftee coming out of college, he is often dealing with screeners nearly twice his age who are far stronger and even more experienced. These are guys who have been honing their screen craft in rough-and-tumble professional leagues for years, so the jump in physicality shouldn’t hinder him as much as some USA-born prospects.
Well, Anthony Edwards is the best quote on the Timberwolves...— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 16, 2020
"Man, it's hard to guard screens in the NBA. Them dudes big. Them dudes setting them screens, they be big. Once I watch enough film on that, it'll become easy for me because I'm pretty big also."
Alas, breezing through screens isn’t a perfect science, and Bolmaro is going to get knocked off by his share of well-set picks throughout a game. The upside is those have provided a platform for him to show his recovery skills. Too often defenders — especially those on the Timberwolves — take their foot off the gas when they find themselves a step behind the play. Bolmaro takes the opposite route, cranking his effort level up a notch to get back into the play or, at minimum, launch himself into a rearview contest.
Obviously, it’s not as effective as staying in front and forcing the handler to give up the ball, but being able to crowd the shooter’s peripheral vision as they rise to launch still acts as somewhat of an impediment. With Bolmaro, you know you’re going to get that consistent effort on a play-by-play basis. Here is a little compilation of him recovering from screens, crossovers, or overly aggressive defense to finish the play well.
For all his exceptional output as an on-ball defender, Bolmaro’s biggest bugaboo is his tendency to let his aggressive defending result in unnecessary fouls. The 20-year-old averaged 4.1 fouls per 36 minutes in Liga ACB play this season and a whopping 5.1 per 36 in Euroleague action, per Basketball Reference. Aside from his coach being inclined to play his more experienced players over his younger, more potential-laden guys, Bolmaro’s foul-proneness is the biggest reason he has seen his minutes fluctuate pretty wildly throughout the season.
Any coach would undoubtedly prefer to have to tone down an aggressive player rather than trying to fire up a lazy one, but that doesn’t mean that plays like this will be any less frustrating. He’ll need to be less jumpy on fakes and keep his hands to himself at the next level.
And, when necessary, learn when to cut his losses and keep his hand out of the cookie jar on a lost possession.
Even with the faults he possesses, Bolmaro’s potential as an on-ball defender is enormous. He doesn’t boast an imposing physical stature, but he is uniquely built to be a fantastic stopper and his commitment toward squeezing the most out of every defensive possession he is directly involved in is even more impressive than any physical trait he owns. For the perpetually defensively challenged Minnesota Timberwolves, that should be sweet music to the ears.
Bolmaro is a nuisance. He isn’t the Patrick Beverley type of nuisance who intentionally tiptoes the line between clean and dirty; instead he is like a fly buzzing around your head all day. Almost unknowing that they’re causing discomfort. Badgering ball-handlers is in Bolmaro’s nature.
“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 after work.”— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) November 21, 2020
My guy @tmetcalf11 is a wizard.https://t.co/Ecu9tps5wO
It’s not dissimilar to the on-ball defense outlined in the previous point, but being able to force the opposition into a mental implosion is just something a little different. There is no measurement or metric for mastery of the dark arts. It’s an intangible in every sense of the word. Having to deal with the lingering shadow that is Bolmaro possession after possession becomes frustrating for even the most levelheaded players, and that usually leads to them doing something they regret.
It can be something simple like a shove to try and get some much-needed breathing room, like the example below:
Or a screener that is desperate to finally free up his teammate:
While most of Bolmaro’s pest work is down to pure tenacity, it is littered with specks of insanely impressive technique. Namely, his aforementioned ability to flip his hips rapidly while maintaining arm’s reach on his man. That helps him to contain in the half court, but he also flaunts it while tormenting players for the entire 94 feet. Constant and relentless pressure is tiring for any ball-handler and is one of the key components to Bolmaro’s mental warfare.
How much Bolmaro’s “buzzing fly” attitude translates to the NBA is unknown, but it’s an infectious mentality, and it’s one that more players on the Timberwolves should adopt. Too often the team has been plagued with lethargy issues in the past, and while that may continue with some players, Bolmaro certainly won’t be one of them.
Initiating and Playmaking
Switching to the other end of the court, the most tantalizing branch of Bolmaro’s offensive game is his ability to initiate offensive actions and/or make the finishing pass of a set. Spanish and European leagues in general aren’t blessed with the jaw-dropping athleticism that the NBA is, which lends itself to more play calling and grind-it-out half court offense.
Bolmaro is a blur in transition and loves to play fast, attributes that should blossom further when he enters the NBA, but playing professionally since the age of 16 has given him a firm grasp on half court initiation. Bolmaro was largely deployed as a primary ball-handler in coach Jasikevičius’ offense, but he was rarely featured as a scorer and quite often was asked to move the ball on early and stand in the corner as a spot-up shooter. This lowered his counting numbers dramatically and didn’t give him the best chance to showcase his offensive skill set. Still, Bolmaro dropped flecks of gold whenever his leash was loosened.
In less than 14 minutes per night across both competitions, it takes some mining at times to find those shiny parts of his game, but they’re undoubtedly there. Perhaps the easiest to extract is his pick-and-roll playmaking. It’s by far the most common action in basketball, and being proficient in the action’s passing craft is tremendously important for a guard in the Association.
Before one can deal out the finishing blow to a defense, being able to open up the defense and set them up for failure is crucial. Namely, Bolmaro executes this through simple hang dribbles and changes of pace, Bolmaro’s timing has improved out of sight in this area as his first season with Barcelona’s main team has progressed.
It’s simple, but holding until the screener is set in position and using the behind-the-back crossover and gets the defender leaning the wrong way forces the big defender to contain Bolmaro. That opens up a window for Bolmaro to thread the needle with a pocket pass.
Bolmaro loves to use the threat of a screen to lull defenders into comfortability, spinning it to his advantage and rejecting screens to open up his teammates. Again, all of the work to create this passing lane is done before he even starts to drive. Bolmaro knows he is going to reject the screen before Gasol gets there, but he holds the ball up nonetheless, shifting the defense across and essentially breaking them with the simplest of moves.
Here’s another example of Bolmaro smartly rejecting a screen. This time, it’s even more extreme. The screener doesn’t even get above the free throw line, but his man is already trying to prep for the pick, that’s all the Argentine needs to snap a crossover into his left hand and get two feet in the paint. Perhaps the most impressive part of this sequence is the patience and technique Bolmaro displays before the pass. By hard-planting his pivot foot and faking the close-range shot, he gets both his and his roller’s defender in the air, allowing him to spin and shovel a pass away for an easy deuce.
Even more so than the preparation, the angles, timing and touch of Bolmaro’s passing — particularly in pick-and-roll — is the most impressive part of his playmaking repertoire. He has an innate ability to wait for and find gaps in the defense and deliver the right pass through them at the perfect moment.
Here is a great encapsulation of Bolmaro’s entire pick-and-roll passing package. The preparation and patience are on point, as he sets his man up perfectly with the hang dribble and then calmly wards off the blitzing big defender, before slingshotting a one-handed bullet to the roller.
Outside of the pick-and-roll, Bolmaro has exhibited the ability to pick out cutters and shooters with similar aplomb. However, his Spanish tutelage has rendered him particularly impressive as someone who can throw pinpoint passes to finish a set.
You just can’t teach vision and quality like this.
That quality should come as a handy sidepiece to his pick-and-roll passing and something Minnesota head coach Chris Finch should enjoy. Finch relied on Ricky Rubio to throw the kill shot pass in multiple of his favorite actions, and while Bolmaro isn’t the level of passer that Rubio is or was, he has the same sort of playmaking nous and pattern recognition within a set play.
Most of the time, these passes seem fairly elementary, but it’s a skill in and of itself to deliver them at the right moment or hit a teammate in his shooting pocket. And, oftentimes, it takes a certain level of intuition to read and react to the way the defense is playing the action.
Here, for example, the base play is for Kyle Kuric to come off flare screen, curl through the paint, receive an exit screen and finish in the opposite slot from which he started. Kuric is a great shooter and this is a play Barcelona runs often to get him a clean look. However, on this play, the defender cheats the exit screen and tries to get into the passing lane, so Kuric spots up in the corner instead. Bolmaro has a mere millisecond to parse this situation and not only change the location of the pass, but add extra zip on it to escape the outstretched arm of the cheating defender.
Again, the timing and touch to lob this feathery pass over the outstretched arm of the defender and nestle it in Kuric’s shooting pocket are just super advanced for a 20-year-old.
The question for Bolmaro is whether he can continue to exploit defenses in the same way when he gets to the highest level of professional basketball on the planet. Clearly, he has the skill set required to run an offense and play helper for his teammates, but we won’t know for certain until he is out there competing against NBA defenses and NBA athletes.
As you can see in the clips above, Bolmaro is prone to biting off a little more than he can chew. For the most part, being able to see creative passing lanes is a useful tool that has the potential to become a weapon as he sharpens it. Being a bit overconfident or adventurous with one’s playmaking ability is an anchor that weighed down many elite passers in their youth. It’s not a big deal, for now, but don’t be surprised if turnovers do plague him as he learns what he can and can’t do in the NBA.
Thus far in his career, Bolmaro’s shooting journey has been more of a roller coaster than a friendly stroll through the countryside. Coming out of the draft, it was quite comfortably the biggest knock on him and a red flag for Timberwolves fans who know how important it is to surround Karl-Anthony Towns with players who can effectively stretch the floor.
Heading into the 2020-21 season — his fourth as a professional and third since arriving in Spain — Bolmaro’s numbers had always backed up his perpetual shooting woes. Although, with a few tweaks and changes, Bolmaro has hit a new stratosphere in terms of accuracy this season, although it’s still on relatively low volume (1.3 3-point attempts per game). Encouragingly, his accuracy at the charity stripe has also soared, which is always a good indicator of improved mechanics and touch. Keep in mind that this season’s numbers are over a 71 game sample size — by far the largest single-season tally of his career.
From the outside looking in, the chief reason for Bolmaro’s growth as a shooter comes from an offseason of refining his shot mechanics between his third and fourth season. Below is a side-by-side and slow-motion comparison of his jump shot from a FIBA tournament in 2019 and one from the season that just concluded.
Bolmaro’s jump shot is not going to feature in any basketball textbooks. Even to this day, it’s still got some funkiness to it that might make the basketball purist inside you shudder a touch. Still, the improvements are palpable.
Bolmaro’s base is much wider when he catches and starts to rise, which gives him better balance as he leaves the floor. His shot in general is much more fluid, he doesn’t have the same two-shot motion that he did previously, allowing him to stroke it more naturally. And, perhaps most importantly, all of his body is aligned and working together — his elbows stay tucked and he bends his knees more to generate power from the lower body instead of using all arms to push the jumper off.
Now that he is starting to feel more confident in his jumper, Bolmaro has started to take and make more catch-and-shoot triples, as well as sprinkling in occasional off-the-bounce shots and off-movement shots. It’s nothing flashy as of yet, but seeing the kid who once struggled to even get his ghastly shot to tickle twin now knocking down these shots semi-regularly is extremely encouraging from a Timberwolves perspective.
Bolmaro is going to have to be much more aggressive if he wants to truly stretch out an NBA defense. It’s one thing to shoot distance shots at a solid clip on low volume, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to hang with NBA lead guards as someone who can punish defenses for going under screens and open up the floor to showcase his aforementioned passing talents.
At times, Bolmaro is still stuck in the mentality of a non-shooter, and that will hurt him at the next level. Plays like the one below, for example, aren’t going to help him warp defenses. With the defense playing a deep drop pick-and-roll coverage and Bolmaro’s man ducking way under the screen, Bolmaro needs to prove his mettle and step into this 3-pointer. By not even considering it and giving the ball up to a guarded teammate, he takes the pressure off the defense entirely.
Or here, where a confident shooter would lap up the open space afforded to him and pull the trigger, Bolmaro drives into the teeth of the defense and loses control of the ball.
Bolmaro is still learning how to balance his newfound shooting stroke with his existing playmaking abilities. Right now, he still shaking off the molted skin of his non-shooting self and adapting to life as someone who can approach respectable from behind the arc.
Where he does love to shoot, though, is in the mid-range area. Bolmaro is much more comfortable right now taking two or three dribbles and pulling up from around the free throw line. From that area, his mechanics look smoother and are less likely to break down as he searches for that extra few feet of range.
I know what you’re thinking, mid-range shots are virtually useless in Minnesota’s system for a low-usage player, right? Well, while that might be true, showing the ability to comfortably get off and make mid-range jumpers is vital for Bolmaro as he continues to broaden his horizons as a shooter from all parts of the floor.
More so than any other tool in his belt, being able to knock down shots (particularly from 3-point range) is the biggest swing skill for Bolmaro. If he can continue on the path he has started this past season, he could become a legitimately damaging shooting threat. If not, he will have to find more niche ways to impact a game, and that can be territory that is fraught with danger for a role player in today’s NBA.
Whether Bolmaro can knock down triples is going to be extremely important, but supplementing that with the ability to penetrate and finish around the rim is just as vital — especially if his 3-point upswing doesn’t continue in the NBA. The South American stud is going to have to find ways to put pressure on the defense and put numbers in the points column, and enhancing his north-south scoring presence might be his best avenue to do so.
Attacking downhill is the best way for Bolmaro to utilize his straight-line speed; one of his most attractive physical features. It manifests itself most prominently in transition, where he can really get out into an open field and gallop away from defenders. Fast break opportunities also allow Bolmaro to go up and finish without a crowded lane and multiple rim-protectors impeding him.
When he has space around him, Bolmaro can be a slippery cover for backpedaling defenders, with a variety of crossovers, nifty finishes, or powerful throw-downs in his bag of tricks.
Bolmaro will be fun in transition. That seems to be a given with flair-filled international prospects. Where he needs to be able to effectively operate to truly thrive, though, is within a half court offense. If Bolmaro can’t force a defense to collapse on his drives, his ability to make plays for others will be impacted in a negative way. Considering how important it is that Bolmaro’s playmaking ability translates, finishing in the half court is truly a swing skill that is worth mentioning.
His slight frame is an issue against strong-bodied rim-protectors, a foible that is likely to have more light thrust on it in the NBA. At times, Bolmaro is too worried about avoiding defenders and loses the craftiness and technique that makes him such an intriguing prospect. He needs to go up strong here.
Even with a guileful finishing package, it’s never going to be easy to navigate finish through the tallest trees when you weigh around 185 pounds. This is a player who has risen through the Spanish ranks quickly and only had this season to truly hone his finishing skills against grown men. With that in mind, Bolmaro’s trajectory has been impressive. Still, it needs to continue if he wants to make an impact at the next level.
In the half court, the Barcelona guard is most impressive when he can get to the rim in a straight line. Doing so allows him to use his short-area burst and get to the rim before weakside shot-blockers can rotate over. Most of these instances occur after coming off a screen. We’ve already touched on Bolmaro’s ability to set up his defender before a screen and run them into said screen with expert timing in relation to his pick-and-roll playmaking and the same rationale can be applied to his downhill attacking.
The other strength of Bolmaro’s driving is his ability to execute the offensive action perfectly and use it to open up a driving lane for himself. Here is a good example of both.
The play is ‘Spain pick-and-roll’, where Gasol’s ball screen (which ends up being more of a back screen) is typical followed up by a back screen by the guard (Alex Abrines in the case) in the paint. Barcelona varies this play in many ways and here Abrines doesn’t actually screen, he jets out to the 3-point line as soon as the defender hits Gasol. Because of Bolmaro’s hesitation hang dribble to set up his defender, and his timing to go as soon as Abrines is clearing, a lane appears out of nowhere and Bolmaro hits it like a bullet through a stick of butter.
Again, same play, same result.
Here, a gorgeous play involving a wide pindown and an on-ball ghost screen springs Bolmaro open. Admittedly, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the coach and Bolmaro’s moving teammates in this one, but the young Argentine is very adept at waiting for the pinpoint moment to make his move. That’s why he finishes this play with the easy two points that it deserves.
Chris Finch’s head coaching career is still in its infancy (in the NBA at least), but we have already seen the makings of a masterful x’s and o’s operator. If Bolmaro does come over to the states next season and link up with Finch, the pair should thrive together.
Despite his size, Bolmaro is very much a point guard by nature. His awareness is that of someone who has been the head of the snake for his entire career, and that awareness is what enables him to successfully convert on drives despite being a suboptimal finisher in traffic.
The other area Bolmaro can get a step on point-of-attack and rotation defenders is when he attacks off the catch. Using his acceleration to blow past a closeout puts a strain on a shifting defense and gives him opportunities to slither his way to the cup. Going quickly off the catch in the example below means he catches the stranded defender flat-footed and when a defender isn’t on their heels against Bolmaro, he is too speedy to contain.
Look at how easily Bolmaro dusts his man after this catch-and-go. In Minnesota, he will likely be playing with other ball-handlers a lot of the time, so being able to play as an off-ball slasher and do it well is essential. Being able to generate easy points going downhill off the catch will also eliminate some of the pressure on him to be an efficient catch-and-shoot player immediately.
It’s certainly not set in stone that Bolmaro is an effective downhill finisher, especially early on in his career. He has the touch, ingenuity and burst to get to the rim in a north-south fashion, but his contact aversion and strength deficiencies are worrisome. In the case that Bolmaro works out and is a really productive NBA player, all of these traits blend together perfectly. However, there is a non-zero chance that they never come together. That could spell trouble.
Space and Shot Creation
The biggest chink in Bolmaro’s armor is his inability to create space for himself to find driving lanes and jump shots. Without question. And, in today’s isolation-heavy NBA, that has the potential to be a major problem as his career unfurls.
As mentioned in his ‘downhill attacking’ subsection, Bolmaro finds slivers of space and pokes through them when he has the help of a screen or a well-executed play. But when Bolmaro has to rely on his shake and wiggle to self-create, his game starts to look less like a South American beach at sunset and more like a dingy back alley.
The problems begin with Bolmaro’s ball-handling creativity. In terms of bringing the ball up the floor and keeping it away from the hands of prying defenders, he is perfectly capable. But, when it comes to making things happen without the help of a ball screen or a sweet Jasikevičius play , Bolmaro is fairly limited. If he can’t get by his man with his pace changes and straight-line speed. His containment becomes a lot easier.
His lack of countermoves stands out in this play. With his defender moving his feet and muscling him up on the drive, Bolmaro is forced to fire out an inaccurate pass to a covered shooter. Ideally, you’d like to see Bolmaro develop a spin move or Euro-step to get himself onto the inside hip of his defender and closer to the basket.
Oft-times, Bolmaro looks flummoxed when his turn of foot isn’t enough to shake defenders. He isn’t the type of player to overstep his scoring boundaries and his fluctuating role within Barcelona’s veteran-heavy rotation seemed to factor into his decisions. Instead of trying to self-create on the fly or step outside of his comfort zone like many high-usage college athletes would, Bolmaro was careful and considered. Given the choice, he would recycle the ball to a more experienced teammate and situate himself off the ball when self-creation was the only means to productivity.
That self-awareness is rare in young players, which is a positive sign, but a pretty serious dearth of perimeter shot and space generation isn’t. When you look around the league at the most productive ball-handlers and lead guards, there isn’t a single one who can’t find his shot or manufacture a pocket of space when their team needs it. Until Bolmaro can do so, he will fail to step up to the echelon of a true on-ball scoring threat.
Even with the help of a screen, fierce point-of-attack defenders can be bothersome for Bolmaro. His ball-handling mechanics are a touch robotic and he would fair well if he lowered the bounce of his ball a few inches to gain some flexibility and wiggle because, at present, he is prone to plays like this where he simply can’t shake good pick-and-roll or isolation defenders enough.
There is a chance this is always a problem for Bolmaro. Players can certainly develop better ball-handling habits and he is still relatively inexperienced against really high levels of competition, but players rarely go from mediocre shot-creators to above-average ones. There is also a chance that with more freedom and spacing in Chris Finch’s offense that Bolmaro shows us more than he did under Jasikevičius. The Barcelona lead man is a demonstrative sideline stroller whose patience with young players is reminiscent of our old friend Tom Thibodeau. Perhaps Bolmaro will be a little more creative and less risk-averse with a more relaxed coach like Finch and a longer leash to run around with.
Bolmaro possesses a bevy of complementary skills, so he will likely contribute to winning in many, many other ways. But, this weakness, his one true weakness, will certainly put a cap on his ceiling as a player if he can’t improve it fairly substantially. Creation equity is the most important trait for a modern day guard, and we’ve what can happen when a player can’t quite grasp it — just ask Ben Simmons.
Overall, Bolmaro projects to be a solid role player at the very least, with star-in-his-role potential if his game continues on the flight path he has found himself on over the past 18 months. For Minnesota, a pesky defender who has extremely advanced skills on that end for his age is a hand-in-glove fit. What comes on the other side of the ball will be what determines Bolmaro’s ceiling. If his playmaking and shooting transfer from Spain to the US, he could be a prototypical do-it-all international player. Only time will tell if Rosas’ 2020 draft will be a hattrick of helpful youths, but Bolmaro has given no indication thus far in his career that he isn’t on the same path as Minnesota’s other two rookies.