Don't Rush To Judgement On Leandro Bolmaro

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

Leandro Bolmaro has had a rollercoaster start to the season. He has experienced a lot coming over from the Spanish ACB League to Minnesota. He has been scoring 20 points per game with the Iowa Wolves. But he’s had to make a difficult adjustment when the Minnesota Timberwolves have called him up at a moment’s notice for rotational minutes.

His growing pains are evident in his play. He is still adjusting to the NBA game and figuring out where he should be when to be aggressive and the ins and outs of defending.

Play Style

Coming into the season, Bolmaro presented a lot of uncertainty, but fans were optimistic because of his fit with the team. He had a reputation for playmaking and on-ball defense, which have translated well. His game translates well as a potential role player in this league. He looks like a potential role player, a positive sign because his on-court performance hasn’t driven winning.

Undoubtedly, his ability to handle the ball as a secondary ball-handler is of considerable value to this team. But he’s getting minutes right now because Minnesota’s other primary ball-handlers are out. Therefore, Chris Finch has made him a primary ball-handler, asking him to orchestrate playmaking. However, his skill set is more suited for being the next pass from the point guard. When he is the main distributor, teams pressure him more often, and his ball-handling skills and his lanky frame are tested.

His on-ball defense has been an exceptional trait, and Finch has often assigned Bolmaro to the best scoring guard. His athleticism isn’t going to stand out, but the instincts to beat a guy to the spot and get a fly-by contest on the shooter allows him to always make an impact on defense. He is fearless on the perimeter, pushing up onto ball handlers and making their life difficult.

Potential Quality Future

Bolmaro is only a handful of games into his career, and people may have come to premature conclusions on his play, wishing he had more of an immediate impact. But he has a lot of room to grow. At 21 years old and having played professionally since 2017, he should adjust quickly. He’s already overcome obstacles overseas.

He needs to work on his shooting. His set shot has unique mechanics that will need to be tinkered with. NBA guards who present minimal shooting threats need to excel elsewhere to earn minutes. Bolmaro doesn’t take many shots. He is last on the team in usage percentage (8.9%), landing him in the 1st percentile of the league. During his peak rotational minutes, he took 2.6 shots per game in his 17 minutes on average. He has only hit one three this season. But if he can at least work on his shot enough to be a 30% shooter occasionally, the Wolves can work with that.

Waiting Game

While it has been disappointing, the league is dealing with COVID outbreaks, and having Bolmaro as a replacement is essential for the Wolves. He will be more productive than anyone they sign off the street. He brings enough every night to play regular minutes. Bolmaro may not drive winning, but he’s not going to cost the team either. His play makes it easier for others to operate, and the Wolves can easily slot him in with Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, or D’Angelo Russell.

Not to mention, he was a late first-round pick, and other players in his draft range are still figuring it out after a full NBA season last year. The Wolves should simply stay patient and let him work through the struggles. Once the team gets back on their feet, strategic call downs to the Iowa Wolves would help get his confidence up because he’ll play more minutes in a more significant role. Allowing him to play against inferior competition feels imminent given his growing pains in the NBA. He has not had the opportunity to get sent down due to injuries and illness.

Ultimately, he is 21 years old on a four-year rookie contract. By mid-season next year, we should see a potential player who can play 15 minutes a game and do what he does already more consistently. Or if he can develop the shooting to pair with passing and defensive talent, he will slot in with other higher usage players exceptionally. It’s just going to take a little time.

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