Extremely fun one-and-done Oregon prospect Bol Bol showed up to Thursday night’s NBA draft decked out in a black suit featuring a garish sequined spider web on the left shoulder, smiling and optimistic and looking forward to being drafted somewhere in the lottery. His night ended with him gloomily trudging to the stage to shake hands with NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, more than four damn hours after the draft’s first pick. Bol slid, and slid, and slid, and slid, all the way into the middle of the second round, where he was picked by the Miami Heat and immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets.
A guy who is picked in the lottery is looking at probably four years of job security and a lifetime’s worth of income; a guy who is drafted in the middle of the second round isn’t even all that likely to earn a role in the NBA, let alone achieve stardom. Six players drafted in the second round in 2018 never touched the floor during their rookie seasons. The vast majority of players selected 45 or later in the draft will spend more time in the developmental league than playing in NBA games their first year in the league. Watching a young person absorb that level of personal and professional devastation on live television is just unbearable—the ESPN broadcast at one point mentioned that Bol’s slide was the longest ever for a player of his ranking in his draft class. That’s all super-duper unscientific, but it’s worth noting that Jay Bilas had Bol ranked as his best available player in the draft for something like three hours.
Bol’s slide seemed to be due to concerns about his body and his ability to hold up physically as a professional basketball player. If there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s that the Nuggets are a good organization pointed toward competing in the playoffs for the foreseeable future, and they can at least theoretically afford to be patient while Bol develops. It was also nice to see Bol get a huge pop from the crowd in Brooklyn when his name was finally, finally called.