Joel Bolomboy showed some promise in his first year with the Utah Jazz, but now finds himself dangerously close to losing out on a roster spot.
Due to the fact that Joel Bolomboy was selected late in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft at number 52 overall, his chances of becoming a highly successful NBA player were low from the get-go. However, given the fact that he was a product of Weber State, giving him significant local ties, he was heralded as a Utah Jazz fan favorite right off the bat.
Despite the slim chance of turning into a nightly rotation player, he certainly had some NBA-like skills, most notably as a rebounder, but also with potential to be an explosive finisher and possibly a stretch-four type talent. He logged very limited minutes with the Utah Jazz in his rookie season, appearing in just 12 games in which he averaged only 4.4 minutes per contest, but was phenomenal with Utah’s G-League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars.
Bolomboy averaged 16.6 points and an astounding 13.3 rebounds per game in a Stars uniform this past year while also shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 46.8 percent from deep. His performance was enough to earn him a D-League (prior to the name change) All-Star bid.
However, the Weber State product had quite a disappointing Summer League performance this offseason as he averaged just six points and 5.3 rebounds while converting on only 33.3 percent of his shots in his games played in the Las Vegas Summer League. And with the Jazz now holding onto 16 players under contract heading into 2017-18, the fan favorite may be in danger of losing his spot on the team completely.
Granted, the Jazz will likely take his Summer League performance with a grain of salt as there are several different ways to evaluate a player’s performance beyond summer action. Our very own John Keeffer brought up a great point in a recent article when he said:
"“Summer League play has never been friendly to big men. It generally favors perimeter players who have the ball in their hand, and big men can really only make an impact on the defensive end and by crashing the offensive glass.”"
In other words, just because Bolomboy struggled in Summer League doesn’t make his performance a death sentence by any means. However, to say he’s walking a fine line would be an understatement. He’ll need to have a great rest of the summer, training camp and preseason to redeem himself if he hopes to remain a member of the 2017-18 Utah Jazz roster.
Best Case Scenario
The simple best case scenario for Joel Bolomboy is that he remains under contract with the Jazz, but if he does so, beyond that hopefully he can fine tune his skills to the degree where the Jazz feel comfortable playing him more than just in garbage time. That still doesn’t mean that I believe that even in a best case he’ll be in Utah’s 10-man rotation, but if he can show improvement, he could still be a serviceable bench player if an injury should cause him to need to take action.
One of Bolomboy’s biggest weaknesses has been catching on to Quin Snyder’s defensive schemes and he’ll need to do a much better job of protecting the paint if he hopes to see any uptick in playing time. If Bolomboy has a solid offseason from here on out that sees more than anything his defense and mid to long range shooting improve, then he could very well remain valuable enough for the Jazz to hold onto.
He’s extremely athletic and has an incredible spring in his step, but has to work out some of the rawness that he still exhibits. If he’s able to do that, then Bolomboy could very well secure one of the final spots on the Jazz depth chart and increase his games played and minutes per game by about double, perhaps playing about 8-10 minutes over the course of 25 games or so for the Jazz.
Nevertheless, even in a best case scenario, it’s more than likely that Bolomboy will spend significant time in the G-League once again this year as the Jazz continue to evaluate him to see if he can truly still turn into the diamond in the rough he was once thought to be.
Worst Case Scenario
Simply put, the worst case scenario is that Bolomboy’s partially guaranteed contract is waived and the Jazz decide to move on from the former Weber State Wildcat. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are clearly Utah’s two best big men options, while newcomers Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh are likely first in line to be backups.
Not to mention, Joe Johnson and Thabo Sefolosha are capable of playing the four in some instances whereas newly drafted Tony Bradley could end up finding himself ahead of Bolomboy on the depth chart as well if Utah sees more upside in him.
Therefore, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Bolomboy simply ends up being the odd man out. One would think that his experience and solid D-League play last year would give him a leg up on some of Utah’s younger players, including Royce O’Neale who was a surprising summer signing, but clearly the Jazz will take the rest of the offseason to evaluate who truly figures into their long-term plans.
In some ways it would seem un-Jazzlike for the team to give up on an affordable guy who showed so much promise last year, but if when push comes to shove he ends up being the most logical one for them to let go of, then it wouldn’t be all that surprising.
Regardless of what ends up happening, I still hope that Bolomboy can secure a place in this league as he has appeared to be nothing short of a determined worker and all-around stand up guy both on and off the court. Utah ties aside, he most certainly deserves to be a fan favorite, and whether he accomplishes that in his now familiar home along the Wasatch Front or elsewhere, I hope nothing but the best for him moving forward.