Orlando Magic’s Bol Bol, a stong candidate for the Most Improved Player Award

November 9, 2022

A player is given the Most Improved Player Award every year if they significantly improve from the prior season or seasons. Is there a player this season who has made a greater “dramatic improvement” from his first few years in the league than the Orlando Magic’s Bol Bol? Some questioned whether he’d even be on an NBA team, primarily due to injuries.


Last season, the Magic acquired Bol from the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline. They also gained P.J. in the bargain. Dozier, who was immediately discarded, a future second-round draft pick, and financial considerations were also part of the deal. All Orlando gave up was a heavily protected second-round draft pick in 2023. At this point, it appears Boston will earn nothing from the transaction.


Bol was recovering from right foot surgery at the time of the transaction. There were no plans to bring him back for the rest of the season. The Magic were merely looking forward to knowing him better and seeing where he’d be physically by the time free agency rolled around.


The Magic noticed something they liked. They opted to re-sign him in the summer, and now, just 11 games into his Magic career, the 7-foot-2, 220-pounder is outperforming all expectations.


Bol scored 11.4 points per game, nine more than he averaged in 46 games with the Denver Nuggets in 2020-21 and 2021-22 combined. His two-point field goal percentage of 75% leads the NBA. He recently set a career-best with 23 points against the Sacramento Kings, and he has two double-doubles already. Before this season, he had not recorded any of those.


“For me, it’s just being aggressive first from the start,” he stated after the Kings game. “I play my best when I’m aggressive from the beginning to the end of the game.”


But let us not forget that Bol’s skill was never in doubt. Coming out of Findlay College Prep in Henderson, Nevada, he was one of the greatest prospects in the country. In 2018, a source ranked him fourth after eventual Duke stars RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish.


Bol was viewed as a top-five overall prospect before suffering a left foot injury nine matches into his collegiate career with the Oregon Ducks. His slip to the second round, where the Denver Nuggets acquired his draft rights after the Miami Heat selected him 44th overall, shows that NBA teams were reluctant to pick him high due to durability concerns.


Bol is different from most 7-footers. His abilities are more guard-focused. He can handle the ball up the court and in transition, has deft footwork, good outside shooting, smooth motions off the dribble, and a delicate touch close to the basket.


Bol’s ability to play on both sides of the court is the best. He now ranks among the league’s best shot blockers. He currently has a total of 24 rejections, which ranks fourth in the league. Manute Bol was one of the league’s top rim protectors when he played in the NBA. He held the association record for blocks twice, notably during his first season with the Washington Bullets in 1985–86.


Bol’s progress hasn’t been hampered by playing with other bigs at all. He’s played at his best this season when he’s been paired alongside 6-foot-10 players Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr.


The soon-to-be 23-year-basketball old’s instincts are excellent, according to Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley. “I believe he has so much more to show, but the one thing about him and what he’s accomplished that I like is that he accepts anything we ask of him and does it voluntarily. He’s merely trying to find his way to suit what we are doing, and I believe that’s a beautiful quality in him.


Bol is undoubtedly a deserved early-season contender for the Most Improved Player award, but he is not the only player who ranks well. Other significantly improved ones include Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell of the San Antonio Spurs, Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies, Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers.


Bol’s early-season candidacy is unique since nobody could have conceivably imagined that he would be in the running, unlike any of the other contenders.