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How Jonah Bolden’s Play is Translating from the EuroLeague to the NBA

With Jonah Bolden solidifying a spot in the Sixers rotation, let’s backtrack to his EuroLeague days to see what skills have carried over, where he’s improved, and where he still needs work.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jonah Bolden is out of the cage...and he’s doing just fine.

The Australian rookie power forward is now a spark plug off the bench for Brett Brown and the Sixers, with some fans even clamoring that he should get the starting nod over Wilson Chandler.

What’s working for Jonah is his impact on the defensive end, as he uses his gangly arms and height to disrupt any sorts of plans the offense had going in to a given possession.

Bolden still has a lot to work on. He is too handsy on defense and picks up fouls much too quickly, averaging six fouls in extrapolated per-36 stats. While he is shooting 76% from inside the arc, he’s only at 31% from outside, and that’s following a game where he was 4-for-5 from deep against the Timberwolves.

So let’s take a look back and compare how his skills from the Euroleague are translating to the NBA.

We’ll start with the defense...specifically the blocks.

Combine Bolden’s impeccable timing, his fantastic hand eye coordination, and his frame, and you’ve got yourself a shot blocking machine capable of spiking a 29.5-inch sphere into the crust of the Earth.

In his lone season with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, he didn’t record many blocks on the ball. Most of his swats came on help defense or in transition:

This is why it’s delightful to see that Jonah is surprising NBA players with just how long his arms are, and how quickly he can get off the ground to snuff shots.

Even when he isn’t blocking the shot, his length causes all sorts of problems for opponents. His defensive savvy this early in his career is something to marvel at.

This may be my absolute favorite sequence from Bolden. He is locked in the entire possession and refuses to make anything easy for Luka Doncic (yeah, Luka Doncic!) and Anthony Randolph.

These kind of plays have been seen recently, as Bolden was flying all over the court during this defensive possession in Indiana.

Here’s another example from the Euroleague on how he never makes anything easy for the opposition. Bolden first forces a routine pass into the backcourt, then contests a shot without fouling.

Here, Melton had a switch onto Bolden for a total of 12 seconds, and never once looked comfortable while Jonah was swarming him with a flurry of hand pokes and sliding feet.

Again here, Westbrook lines Bolden up, then realizes what he’s getting into and reluctantly feeds Jerami Grant in the post, who has T.J. McConnell on him.

The other area of the game that Jonah impacts the most is when he attacks the offensive glass. So far this season, he is averaging one offensive rebound per game, which seems oddly low since he always seems to get an extremity on the ball. Take it back to his Maccabi days for another one of my favorite Jonah sequences:

One thing Jonah instinctively does after snaring an offensive rebound is to find a ball handler or open shooter. He did it in the clip above, and again here, finding JJ Redick open for a deep 3-pointer.

Here’s another example of using his length to grab the rebound and immediately find the open shooter on the perimeter.

Now, if this wasn’t T.J. McConnell, it’d be another perfect rebound to perimeter play.

In his tenure with Maccabi, Jonah would attack the offensive glass and try to tip balls back in. Most times, he would go up with one hand and attempt to tap it back, instead of going up and grabbing it with two hands. He gets this one to fall, but more times than not they wouldn’t. Going up strong with two hands is always better.

This is much more pleasing anyway...

So now let’s move on to the big question mark for Jonah Bolden: can he be a reliable enough 3-point shooter to vouch for a large bench role, or even a starting spot moving forward. So far he’s clocking in at 31.5%, although he has made seven out of his last ten 3-point tries.

Mechanically, not much looks different from his Macabbi shot. I’m no shot doctor, so I’m not going to pick apart the slight mechanical adjustments he can make. But one large difference I’ve seen so far is that he’s putting a lot more arc on his shots than he was in Europe.

Here are two examples of his low arcing shot. One ends up short and one ends up long.

Even on the make here, it’s still a very low arcing shot. Again, not a shot doctor, so don’t ask me why Landry Shamet’s line drive shots go in. If it goes in, it goes in, but if it doesn’t, then changes have to be made.

Compare those low arcs to his 3-pointers with the Sixers, and he is obviously emphasizing getting the ball higher.

He also might have found his 2K hot spot on the right wing.

It’s apparent now more than ever that the moves made in the Colangelo era are coming back to hurt the Sixers in more ways than one. Hopefully, Jonah Bolden becomes a silver lining of the post-Hinkie draft picks.

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