It’s becoming a favorite pastime of Minnesota Timberwolves writers to list all of the young, talented players up and down their roster. (It’s a lot of fun, trust me). The list usually begins with Anthony Edwards, the golden boy who will lead any list of Wolves players for (hopefully) the next two decades. Then comes Towns, the veteran unicorn, and D’Angelo Russell, the misunderstood point guard. Next, you get the lanky defenders Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt in some order. And lastly, some sickos include the bench guys, Malik Beasley, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell, and Jordan McLaughlin. It’s a long list because the Wolves are finally good, and the roster is teeming with young talent.
But there’s one name that everyone (especially me) always forgets to include. Leandro Bolmaro.
The last time we saw Bolmaro in the NBA, he was having his best game of the year in the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bulls. Most of the starters either didn’t play or hardly played enough to break a sweat as the Wolves prepared for their first playoff series since 2018. However, the precocious 21-year-old Argentinian spent most of his rookie season buried deep on Minnesota’s bench or lighting it up with their G League affiliate in Iowa. It must have been a disappointing season for Bolmaro, who may have expected a bigger role on a young team as a former first-round pick.
Still, Bolmaro’s absence from the rotation doesn’t mean he isn’t part of this team’s future.
Bolmaro is a versatile wing who provides Minnesota with the varied skill set that all NBA teams are looking for. We saw it for glimpses this year and to varying effect, but at 6’6″, Bolmaro can handle the ball. While he may never develop into a primary ballhandler, Bolmaro can be a secondary playmaker and reset the offense when a play breaks down. He’s probably a more natural small forward, which fits right into Minnesota’s roster construction. The only other true small forward on the roster is Jake Layman, even if Jaden McDaniels is probably the Wolves’ (tall) small forward of the future.
Bolmaro struggled with his jumper as a rookie, shooting a sub-par 27.1 percent from three in 11 G League games. However, he flashed some promise as a reliable three-point shooter before Minnesota drafted him 23rd overall in 2020. During his two-year stint with FC Barcelona, a teenage Bolmaro hit 41 percent of his threes, albeit on a very small sample size (35-for-85). Furthermore, it’s promising to see that Bolmaro has a feathery touch from the free-throw line. In his international career, he shot 84 percent from the charity stripe, 90 percent in the G League, and almost 85 percent (11-13) in the NBA. Again, it’s a small sample size, but it shows that he has a good shooting base to build off of. He has the tools to become a good shooter at all levels in the NBA.
Still, Bolmaro will need to vastly improve his defensive standing if he wants to keep up with the likes of McDaniels, Vanderbilt, and Anthony Edwards as long, tenacious defenders who can guard multiple positions up and down the opposing lineup. He doesn’t have to become Patrick Beverley, but becoming a better on-ball defender would help Bolmaro keep his spot in the rotation next season when he’s struggling with his shot.
The 2022 Wolves are in a much better place to take their time developing young talent than they were in 2020 when they drafted Bolmaro. That version of the Timberwolves had the No. 1 pick for a reason. They were still the hapless Wolves who hadn’t won a playoff series since 2004. Now, only 18-months after the 2020 NBA Draft, Minnesota has transformed into an energetic team on the rise. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2004, but they pushed the Memphis Grizzlies to the brink in Round 1 and will have even higher expectations at the beginning of next season.
Minnesota can go in any direction with the 19th pick on June 23rd. They also have their trio of second-round picks. Whoever they pick might tell us if they view Bolmaro as part of their long-term future. It’s hard to predict what will happen on the edges of the roster this offseason as Tim Connelly takes the reins from Sachin Gupta after signing a five-year, $40 million deal plus equity to become the President of Basketball Operations in Minnesota.
Bolmaro will have just turned 22 when the 2022-23 NBA season kicks off, giving him plenty of time to develop before hitting his physical prime around his mid-to-late 20s. As the Timberwolves’ other youngsters grow their games and build on their playoff appearance last season, some may look at Bolmaro as a bust if he doesn’t join the group as an everyday contributor next season. It might best serve Bolmaro’s growth to start the season in the G League instead of being the 11th or 12th man off the bench and getting sporadic playing time. Bolmaro has shown he can step up and play competent minutes when the Wolves asked him to, but it will be no time to panic if he waits another season to make sure he’s ready for the spotlight.
The good news is the Wolves are on stable ground for the first time in years, meaning they aren’t relying on Bolmaro to blossom into a contributor right away. They can afford to wait and see what they have rather than running him out there when he’s not ready. Bolmaro is on the books for just under $2.5 million next season with a club option for 2023-24 and 2024-25 before becoming a restricted free agent in 2025. Whether Leandro Bolmaro eventually transforms into a solid rotation player or falls out of the league as a first-round swing-and-miss on an intriguing international talent is up to him. But for now, let’s hope the youngster can make incremental improvements and take a step in the right direction next season.