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2021-22 Minnesota Timberwolves Season Review: Leandro Bolmaro

The Timberwolves best kept secret is a swag lesson and consistent jumpshot away from stardom.

Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

(Full disclosure: I am totally copping Logan Alten’s style for this season review. Shoutout to the realest!)

Well, KAT, let’s give the people what they want!

While NBA fans around the world have been (rightfully) enamored with Minnesota’s young stars Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and even Jaden McDaniels, the best kept secret has yet to hit the public airwaves. The coolest underground hero has followed the footsteps of a former Minnesota Timberwolves cult hero, Ricky Rubio. Fans lived for hits of dopamine via grainy YouTube footage sporadic Twitter highlights from his Euro-stash time overseas with FC Barcelona. I’m talking about none other than the Argentinean Assassin, Leo Leandro Nicolás Bolmaro.

Let’s rewind and take a look back at his rookie campaigns with the Minnesota Timberwolves (35 games) and the Iowa Wolves (*15 games).

Leandro Bolmaro 21-22 NBA Season Stats
*Leandro Bolmaro 21-22 G League Season Stats

*Omitted 1/28 Iowa Wolves vs. Stockton Kings game as he only played 5 minutes before leaving with a sprained ankle.

The Positives

“Lea” had two very different seasons, as evidenced by the stark contrast in his season numbers above. Even if you magnify his NBA stats to per 36 minutes, he is still only averaging a meek 7.5 points and 3.1 assists, though his 6.4 rebound number is a bit intriguing (More on that later). That said, as a six foot six inch secondary ballhandler, he has immediate intrigue as a rotation player.

Playmaking

Drawing back to the connections to Rubio, Bolmaro often showcased his playmaking potential especially in the pick and roll. He built an obvious connection with fellow occasional G League call-up, Nathan Knight.

The 21-year-old’s understanding of how to read and manipulate defenders at multiple levels is clearly a skill he harnessed during his time overseas. Not only does Lea have the vision, but he also has the creativity to fire off a number of sweet dishes that would make even Gordon Ramsay approve.

Defense

It was fairly obvious from Bolmaro’s first day stateside that he was ready to play NBA-level defense. This was one of his touted skills leading up to the 2020 draft and he certainly did not disappoint. I liken his attitude on defense to that of a honey badger. He flat out doesn’t care who’s in front of him, whether or not they are on a hot streak, or how far away from the basket they are. Lea was going at you. During his limited minutes on the floor, he displayed his amazing athleticism, technique, and intelligence understanding rotations. Perhaps the biggest separator between a good defender and a great defender is something that Bolmaro possessed: An insane motor.

I could really just put together a way-too-long chunk of embedded videos to highlight more plays, but in cause you don’t trust the eye-test, then let’s hear what coach Chris Finch had to say about Bolmaro’s defense.

Overall impact

What’s truly great about Lea is that he’s not a one-trick pony. He’s not just a playmaker, or just a defender, or just the resident Spanish-speaker. He’s willing to do the “dirty work” such as making the right play or helping on the boards. As mentioned earlier, Bolmaro was not shy to use his athleticism to get in the mix and help gang rebound. This goes both on the defensive and offensive glass.

At his best, you’ll see Lea fly in to snatch a rebound, push the ball forward with his surprisingly tight handle (He’s got a bag), finish at the rim or pinpoint a pass to an open shooter, then immediately employ a one-man full court press.

(I’m the proud owner of that game-worn Bolmaro AAPI jersey!)

The Negatives

Consistency

On the 20th game of the Timberwolves season, Bolmaro’s number was the first to be called off the bench, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone. Coach Finch decided to put his trust in the young defensive ace, suddenly playing him for a then season-high 17 minutes against a tough Philadelphia 76ers team. He had a minimal, but positive, effect on the game’s outcome. Hard to ask for more out of the rookie, right? Well, that kicked off a seven game stretch in which he would play as the primary sub off the bench, averaging 17.2 minutes per game. The result was... mixed to say the least. A few games where he played stingy point-of-attack defense, then a few games where he would glaringly pass up wide open shot attempts. His lack of consistent production, especially on the offense end, could likely be tied to...

Confidence

Lea’s heavy doses of minutes culminated in an early December game against the Atlanta Hawks where he drew a start with D’Angelo Russell out. Upon hearing this news, I was about ready to shoot myself out of cannon from excitement, but instead we got this. A lot of this.

He should have taken the wide open three pointer, but he overthought it and ended up shuffling his pivot foot. This is a play that happens from time-to-time to even the best players in the league, but what makes this infraction worse is that Bolmaro was clearly in his own head. He had just missed two wide open three pointers earlier that quarter. Those nagging thoughts likely forced this mistake. For the rest of the game, Lea looked completely allergic to shooting, literally passing up opportunities and putting his teammates in more difficult positions. Eventually those poor decisions would turn themselves into careless turnovers due to overthinking even his own passing.

You can chalk up his lack of confidence to being a rookie. Maybe it was because it was his first year playing in the United States. Or it could be credited to a potential language barrier. I assume it’s a combination of all that. That said, having the offensive confidence of Ben Simmons is clearly something that will need to be addressed moving forward.

Perimeter shooting

Confidence was obviously Lea’s biggest issue (Maybe going back to the name “Leo” would solve that problem!) and it trickled down most obviously to his perimeter shooting. Though his unwillingness to shoot is one thing, the lack of success when he decided to catapult one up was not great. His 32% conversion rate from perimeter in the G League was slightly better than the 28% in the NBA, but neither of those are acceptable for someone who is going to be a secondary or tertiary role on offense. It very much could be a mechanical issue for the Argentinian:

If you take a look at his shot form, it leaves a lot to be desired. Now, I’m no shot doctor by any means, but even as a casual basketball player, his follow through appears to be something closer to Captain Hook’s left arm than it does a gooseneck.

It did appear that Lea’s form got better as the season went along though. It’s a very limited sample size, but in the 2022 calendar year, Bolmaro’s 3P% went up to 42.9% (3 of 7) in the NBA. Just peep that beautiful improved follow through!

Best Game

NBA Game

April 10, 2022 | Game 82 @ Chicago Bulls
17.9 mins | 11 points | 3 rebounds | 4 assists | +15
44.4 FG% | 100 3P% | 100 FT%

In a seemingly meaningless end of the season game, the Wolves were resting most of their starters against the Chicago Bulls. They were getting throttled all game, falling behind by 20 with 5:54 left in the third quarter.

Then Chris Finch inserted Leandro Bolmaro.

Lea led a bench charge with the likes of Jake Layman, Nathan Knight, Josh Okogie, and Greg Monroe. They formed a five-man unit that would make the Dream Team shutter in fear. Bolmaro helped slice and dice up the Chicago third-stringers, immediately cutting the lead in half heading into the final fourth. All of his strengths were on display: Pushing the pace, playmaking, rebounding, cutting, defensive energy, and even knocking down a pair of three pointers!

Though the Wolves ultimately fell short, Bolmaro saved his best performance for literally his last game of the season.

G League Game

March 3, 2022 | Game 19 @ Oklahoma City Blue
40.1 mins | 21 points | 14 rebounds | 9 assists | 2 steals | 2 blocks | +10
50.0 FG% | 50.0 3P% | 100 FT%

In his second to last game with the Iowa Wolves, Leandro balled out versus the Oklahoma City Blue back in March. An outburst like this wasn’t uncommon for him in the G League though, as he often looked like he was the best player on the court. The offensive and defensive box score numbers from this game speak for themselves, but Lea gave us another glimpse of what he’s capable of: His clutch gene.

Down 99-100 with 2:51 remaining, Bolmaro pulled up for a Sam Cassell cojones pullup triple to retake the lead. Cash. OKC would go on to tie the game with 1:35 remaining, but Lea answered the call again. This time, perfectly timing a pass to a curling Vincent Edwards in the paint to finish their opponents off with an and-one.

Oh, and literally hours after turning OKC’s G League team blue, he took his talents to the Timberwolves to play against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, he played in TWO professional basketball games in one day. Not only did he earn W’s in both, but he also scored a NBA career-high two three pointers against the Thunder, needing just five minutes of action to put up six points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal (+8).

There’s a reason you can’t spell Bolmaro without ball.

Projected Role Moving Forward

The hot topic for the Wolves this summer is what they will be doing with D’Angelo Russell. Whether he stays or goes, there’s still a potential need for a playmaker off the bench. I don’t envision Jordan McLaughlin shying away from that role, nor is Bolmaro a pure point guard. He’s also not the type of bench scorer that Malik Beasley or Jaylen Nowell are either. Does that put him in a weird spot? I’d like to avoid using a deficit-mindset and instead consider what his versatility means.

Lea can be an aggressive cutter who can play-make alongside JMac.

Lea can set the table and defend next to scorers like Beas and Nowell.

If he continues developing his game, then I truly believe he’ll be deserving of minutes next season. That’s what KAT would want.

Summer School Assignment

1) Get comfortable building chemistry with teammates.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it builds confidence. Leandro has shown the potential (and flair) that he deserves to be on the NBA floor. He just needs to absorb as much swag as possible from Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley which will alleviate his issues second-guessing himself. Bolmaro should spend a good portion summer working with his teammates to build the type of chemistry that he had with his G League compatriots.

2) Get as many shooting reps in as possible.

The Wolves don’t have the best track record in terms of developing defenders into perimeter threats (See: Okogie, Josh; Culver, Jarrett), but third time’s the charm, right? Bolmaro showed improvement in this area and he’s still just 21 years old. I have faith that our much improved coaching staff can and will correct this.

Personally, I’m extremely excited for his future on the Timberwolves. As they say... El futuro es big!