In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we break down the play of Argentinian prospect Leandro Bolmaro.
Carlos Delfino. That is the last Argentinian player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, back in 2003.
Currently, there are no Argentinian players in the NBA, but one of the recents includes former Hawk Nicolas Brussino (which is always fun mention for me, personally). Another, of course, is the legendary Manu Ginobili, an international icon and a future Hall of Famer.
17 years after Delfino was selected in the first round, 19-year-old Leandro Bolmaro is looking to be the next Argentinian to break into the NBA and be the first selected in the first round since Delfino.
Depending where you look, different outlets feel differently as to whether that might happen or not.
Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated projects Bolmaro as a first round selection at No. 28, ESPN’s ‘Best Available’ list is actually higher on Bolmaro at No. 21 overall, and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic mocks Bolmaro at No. 32 overall.
That’s the general consensus on Bolmaro: some believe he’s a first round selection, others think he’ll fall into the second round — it’s obviously a fine line.
Bolmaro has decided to throw his name into the hat, declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft back in April.
So, now that his name in the hat, let’s talk a bit about Bolmaro.
Standing at 6 foot 7, Bolmaro currently plays for Barcelona — a club you may have heard of before. For the 2019-20 season, Bolmaro played for both the senior side and the Barcelona B-Team, featuring in both the domestic leagues of both the senior team and the B-Team as well as the EuroLeague in a more limited role.
Across all competitions, Bolmaro played in 22 games, starting nine of them, and posted averages for the season of eight points per game on 42% shooting from the field on seven attempts per game, 28% from three on three attempts per game, 67% from the line on 1.5 attempts per game, 1.68 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 turnovers in an average of 17.6 minutes per game, per RealGM.
Those are... slightly misleading, however.
Bolmaro’s season can be split into two, in essence. At the beginning of the season, he was with the senior side. From near the end of 2019, he has mostly been with the B-Team, who feature in Spain’s third division. In total, Bolmaro played 13 games for the senior team and nine games for the B-Team. With the B-Team, Bolmaro featured in a more prominent role than he did with the senior team.
In those nine games with the B-side, Bolmaro averaged 14.9 points per game on 45% shooting from the field on 12 attempts per game, 28% from three on six attempts per game, 64% from the line on three attempts per game, 2.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.7 turnovers in 26.8 minutes a game.
His season-long stats are boosted pretty significantly with those averages with the B-Team.
Speaking of, we’re going to dive into some film and get a better look at Leandro Bolmaro. Bolmaro wore No. 31 with the senior side, and I apologize in advance that some of these clips won’t be in HD, as that can’t be helped, sadly.
I’m also going to avoid using footage of Bolmaro from the B-Team as much as possible (there will be some instances), as I don’t think it reflects on why he’s as highly ranked as he is, in addition to the fact it’s against the third division in Spain, rather than the Liga Endesa and EuroLeague — professional leagues.
One of the things that surprised me when it came to Bolmaro were his defensive abilities. Perhaps I was expecting him to be bad (are there many skinny-like 19 year olds that are a plus defensively in a professional league like Spain, and even in the EuroLeague?) but I was pleasantly surprised by Bolmaro on the defensive end.
We’ll touch on this more later but Bolmaro, in essence, played as the primary ball-handler — that was his he did when he was on the floor. What made that possible defensively at 6 foot 7 is his speed as Bolmaro is exceptionally light-footed, and he looks effortless in his movement on the court. In addition, his motor is high — he’s willing to run around, give chase and provide multiple efforts.
This clip was the first that gave me the impression of what Bolmaro’s defensive activity looked like. He picks up the ball-handler full court, sticks with him and prevents the penetration, with the ball-handler needing a screen to be freed from Bolmaro:
A little short snippet here, but I just loved Bolmaro’s foot-movement (how he’s seemingly always on his toes) and effort to pick up at full court, to keep up and maintain the effort on and off of the ball:
Again, I love the intensity and I love the foot-work on this possession against fellow EuroLeague and Liga Endesa opponents Valencia:
On this possession, Bolmaro again moves his feet well and this time gets a hand in to knock the ball away, forcing a shot clock violation:
Another quality of Bolmaro I really enjoy is his persistency, whether it’s to get through/around screens or to get back into contention should he be hit by one.
Starting off light, Bolmaro again highlights his easiness on his feet as he swoops around the screener to remain in front of the ball-handler:
On this defensive possession, Bolmaro pressures the inbounds pass, picks up at full court, dodges the first screen, gets hit by the second but shows desire and effort to try and get back into the play and attempt to contest this shot:
Despite the amount of bodies the opposition tries to throw to separate the ball-handler and Bolmaro, the Argentine is up to the task, finding a way to get around everyone in his path and he manages to stay in front of the ball-handler while also showing his potential to switch as he switches after the pass to cut off the driving path:
Speaking of switching, I would’ve liked to have seen more switching action involving Bolmaro. Unlike with Abdoulaye N’Doye, where all he did was basically switch (not out of laziness), Bolmaro and Barcelona didn’t really look to switch him much on defense as I thought perhaps that might with some at his size, mobility and general defensive intelligence.
The closest example was here:
It didn’t make sense as to why Barcelona/Bolmaro didn’t look to switch more. Part of that, to be fair, is Bolmaro’s own ability to — generally speaking — contain who he was defending. Added to that, Barcelona played more zone and not as much man-to-man. I would wager a guess and say it is a part of his game that could be tapped in further.
I was hugely impressed with Bolmaro’s defense — for a 19 year old playing in the top division in Spain, and in the EuroLeague at times, I found him to be an intelligent defender and beyond his years. He knows when to rotate, knows when to dig...his general awareness I found to be very strong at this age already at this level of competition. Not many other players are this intelligent and understanding defensively at this age.
Even just heads up plays like this: drawing a charge out of nothing:
Someone show this to the Phoenix Suns, they’ll draft him immediately.
Even on this play too, as Barcelona — one of the top tier teams in Europe — switch their defensive coverage, Bolmaro is right there in tandem with them. He, to put it simply, just fits in. You’d forget you’re looking at a 19 year old making a legitimate contribution on one of Europe’s best teams:
Bolmaro also has a knack for procuring steals, averaging 1.27 steals per game in all competitions.
On this play, Barca’s zone defense helps position Bolmaro in place to collect the steal on the pass attempt to the corner:
In a somewhat messy sequence, Bolmaro flashes his active hands to pry the ball away and come up with a steal, leading to a break and basket for Barcelona:
Here’s a few instances of defense to offense, as Bolmaro — in garbage time against Fenerbahce — puts pressure in the opposing back-court before instinctively reaching in to knock the ball away and finish with the dunk:
On this possession with the B-Team, Bolmaro gets a hand in on the attempted pass — after the initial pressure on the ball-handler from another teammate made life difficult — and takes the ball down the floor and whips out a lovely step-move to finish at the rim with ease:
There are one or two things to mention when it comes potential negatives when it comes to Bolmaro defensively.
He’s aggressive, we’ve seen that in almost every defensive clip; it’s hard to escape his defensive intensity. It can also be his undoing at times, prone to collecting some fouls due to said-aggressiveness:
Bolmaro commits two fouls a game, and you can imagine how his eagerness on defense would result in fouls — I’d hate to tell him to turn down the intensity but these fouls can place him in trouble at times.
He also isn’t, of course, immune to lapses and switch-offs every now and then, but generally speaking he is an impressive defender. A lack of overall strength right now will prevent him from defending some of the legitimate threes and you couldn’t really play him as a small-ball four by any means right now.
Let’s move on to playmaking/passing...
What immediately stood out to me, before anything else when it came to Bolmaro, period, was the fact that as soon as Bolmaro checked into a game, he’s the primary ball-handler coming off of the bench — it is mostly him initiating the offense. That was the story no matter what competition it seemed Barcelona were playing in (maybe on a lesser scale due to minutes in the EuroLeague, where Bolmaro played a little less in terms of minutes)
Before anything else, this cannot be understated. The fact that Barcelona trust Bolmaro — a 19 year old — to come in and initiate their offense shows a tremendous sign of faith and belief in his abilities.
There are a number of facets to Bolmaro’s playmaking game, and we’re going to look at those — just a look at some general assists/opportunities (nothing too specific)...
One of the things I enjoyed watching Bolmaro with the ball in his hands is how glued it appeared to be. It just belonged in his hands, know what I mean? It looked right, it looked natural. Here, maybe I can show you what I mean.
On this play, Bolmaro shows his handles and a beautiful hesitation move (plus the burst) to drive inside before finding his teammate, who scores the hook shot going to his right:
I’m sure you’ll get the idea more as we carry on, but I wanted to sew this one in your head off the top...
Let’s look at some pick-and-roll/Bolmaro’s link up play (which often involved Nikola Mirotic).
Nothing wild to start as Bolmaro makes a solid execution of the pass to Alex Abrines as he comes off of a screen for a three-point attempt:
Immediately after that offensive rebound from Barcelona, they set up again with Bolmaro. They slip the first screen, return for a re-screen, after which Bolmaro lofts a pass inside but it would lead to naught as the paint is swarmed:
A little bit of a risky pass but alas...
Off of the screen, Bolmaro sees an extra body but makes the quick read and pass to find his teammate for a three-point attempt:
On the link-up with Mirotic on the screen-and-fade, Bolmaro finds Mirotic for a three-point attempt which is missed:
None of this is particularly eye-popping in the pick-and-roll but Bolmaro is capable to run the offense and Barcelona trusts him to do it when he’s on the court.
A few looks at other assists/opportunities, Bolmaro treads the baseline with precision before finding Alex Abrines in the corner for the three-pointer:
That play is one I feel highlights Bolmaro’s vision and awareness too.
In transition, Bolmaro produces a fantastic bounce-pass in transition to find his onrushing teammate for the easy basket in transition:
I enjoyed the execution of some of Bolmaro’s passes, such as this sweeping pass which led to a three-point assist in the EuroLeague:
This next clip is truly nothing special and probably not even worth mentioning but I wanted to, because I enjoyed the execution of it, leading to a three-point attempt:
Bolmaro also shows some level of comfort to use his left-hand, throwing a nice bounce-pass with the left hand for the eventual assist on this play:
I also enjoyed some of Bolmaro’s work when sprung with a trap/extra pressure. We looked at an instance of this in the pick-and-roll but here’s a couple more...
As the end of this first quarter draws, Tenerife extend the pressure and make it tough for Bolmaro in the backcourt/mid-court but Bolmaro responds to it well and gets the ball to safety:
On this possession, Bolmaro spins away from the pressure at mid-court and makes an excellent pass to his open teammate, who has a free look at a three which he converts after the fake to shed the recovering defender:
Of course, there are occasions where Bolmaro is unable to get out of the trap, such as this instance where he commits the turnover:
Bolmaro can be prone to a little bit of sloppiness, a little bit of carelessness at times. With the Barcelona B-Team, Bolmaro committed 2.7 turnovers per game and posted an assist/turnover ration of 1.28. With the senior side in the Liga Endesa, it was a 1.43 assist, 1.14 turnover average per game, and in the EuroLeague it was more impressive 2.3 assists and one turnover committed but, of course, in a lesser role — the numbers aren’t especially stellar, and it’s probably the main area where Bolmaro could stand to improve: his efficiency in his playmaking.
On this possession, Bolmaro has his pocket poked away in front of him in as he brings the ball up the floor, leading to a basket for the opposition in a silly looking play for Bolmaro:
Bolmaro can consider himself lucky that this didn’t result in a turnover, as his pass is intercepted but knocked out of bounds with an errant foot, retaining possession for Barcelona:
With the B team, Bolmaro gets a little too fancy on the pass attempt (something that ended up happening more frequently with the B team than the senior side) and his behind the back pass attempt is stolen:
Let’s move onto some of Bolmaro’s scoring aspects...
Things are a little more complicated here because his points per game averages aren’t that high with the senior side: 4.4 points per game in the Liga Endesa, 1.8 in the EuroLeague.
Let’s look at some of the footage from the senior side first.
Hot and cold might be the best way to describe some of Bolmaro’s offense — there’s some good stuff and...not as good stuff.
Let’s look at the good stuff first.
Take this play for example... The screen comes for Bolmaro but it’s slipped and the opposing big sticks with Bolmaro, restricting his space. Bolmaro weaves around the traffic — displaying his fine handle as it’s held tight to him — and gets to the rim where he finishes to complete a great play (though, the attempted dunk didn’t go to plan):
On this possession, this time the screen is set and not slipped, and Bolmaro dribbles to his right, shifts gears and somehow finishes at the rim despite the crowd and contact:
Again, Bolmaro shifts through the gears, gets into the paint and hits the runner:
That is a strength of Bolmaro’s: shifting through the gear/utilizing his quickness.
In transition, Bolmaro receives the ball and whips out a beautiful right-to-left move to get by his man and hits the runner over the outstretched help defense:
With the help of the screen to unsettle the on-ball defender, Bolmaro gets to the baseline after driving to his right and extends to hit the baseline jumper:
We’ll be touching on Bolmaro’s three-point shooting in a larger conversation but here’s an instance of Bolmaro connecting from a few feet outside the three-point line:
Here’s another instance of a successful connection (this time with the B-Team):
Let’s look at some of the colder stuff for Bolmaro offensively, and we may as well start with some three-point misses (again, this will be an important topic later but, for now, here’s how a few look):
Speaking of shots that are off, Bolmaro gets inside on this possession but puts up a wild shot and misses:
A poor selection of shot in this next clip as Bolmaro misses the straightaway three-pointer in transition:
To be fair, that kind of shot always looks worse when they’re missed and Bolmaro did get a good look at it but...still not a great shot...
In the EuroLeague, Bolmaro drives, gets himself into a good position but squanders an easy layup at the rim:
I haven’t been keen to use a ton footage of Bolmaro with the B-Team — despite the scoring averages and the higher volume — because (A:) it’s difficult to track down, and (B:) I just don’t see a ton of use in using footage from the Spanish third division. I don’t think that’s reflective of his value and it’s not going to representative in the NBA. Using footage against professionals — and in very reputable top tier divisions — is more representative. That being said, I think it might be worth looking at in some regard, if only because the offensive sample isn’t that high with the senior side.
Let’s look at some of the offensive stuff from the Barcelona B-Team, and I’d take this with a grain of salt because, ultimately, it’s against the competition in Spain’s third division.
I’m more interested in the makes than any misses because the role is completely different and Bolmaro automatically becomes the best player on the court. Let me preface that with this little story, and this is going to sound absolutely bizarre at first but bear with me...
When I was younger, I played rugby in school. One year, my wrist was broken and I was out of action for a while, but when I was cleared to return I initially came back with the C-Team (I was a member of the B-Team prior) before returning to the B’s. I automatically became the best player on the C-Team even coming back from injury and because of that I wanted to try a different position and I wanted to feature in a leading role (and the coach was happy for me to do it because, well, he didn’t have a player like me on his team normally), and it just didn’t work out because I just wasn’t that guy, that just wasn’t my role (I was a great glue player for that B-Team but never the star) and I bit off more than I could chew.
I feel similarly about Bolmaro with the Barca B-Team. At times, it was more than he bargained for and I think part of that because he had an opportunity in a role he was not accustomed to and freedom he was not used to and I think he tried a little too hard with Barca B to be that guy.
So, for that reason — since we’ve already looked at a few of the colder aspects of his offense — I’m just going to focus on some of the offensive makes from Bolmaro with Barca B (and I’ll talk about more about Bolmaro’s offense as a whole in the conclusion).
We’ve seen an instance or two of Bolmaro happily operating in transition, and there was more of that to be found with the B team.
On this possession after the miss, Bolmaro receives the ball, brings it beyond half-court before switching gears and driving to the rim and finishing, despite the contact, plus the foul:
We’ll stick with the theme of drives, more so in the half-court now, as Bolmaro takes advantage of the tight defense and a beautifully fluid exchange of hands gives him the go-ahead to drive by the defender, get to the free throw line and stick through the runner:
That’s one of the things I really enjoy about Bolmaro, how fluid he can be — this was a beautiful move highlighting that.
The original footage of this clip jumps a little, but you can see Bolmaro drive to his left and finish with his left-hand, showing some level of comfort with his off-hand:
For a little versatility on the drive, from the wing this time, Bolmaro jab-steps before eventually driving but proceeds to stop on a dime, which sends the defender astray and allows Bolmaro to rise and hit the jumper:
Let’s try and attempt to land this thing.
Bolmaro is a player with great upside.
Defensively, there’s a lot to like — a lot. He may lack elite length but everything else I think is great. I love the activity, I love the willingness to work and hustle (whether it’s through/around screens or otherwise), I love his defensive footwork, I think he has the potential ability to switch but I think most of what I love is just how intelligent he is already on defense. He just has a firm understanding of where to be and what to do, and that level of understanding I think is rare for someone that young. With regards the steals, I do think part of it is due to some of the zone defense at times and other times it has to do with Bolmaro’s instincts, hands, defensive feel etc.
It’s incredible: he’s 19 years old and he not only FITS but excels defensively with Barcelona, arguably the best team in Europe before the season was brought to a halt. I do think it’s worth mentioning this fit is more from a guard’s standpoint rather than a forward’s standpoint —even though he’s 6 foot 7 (whereas someone like Abdoulaye N’Doye would go in the other direction). Bolmaro would lack the strength to compete with legitimate threes right now.
He can be a little too aggressive/excited on defense at times, leading to foul trouble, but overall Bolmaro is a plus defensively with room to grow.
When it comes to playmaking, Bolmaro does possess a good feel for the game. He’s intelligent, can see plays from many different angles, he can use both hands and I quite like his general execution of his passes. Turnovers can be a problem at times, in part due to a little bit of carelessness/sloppiness. In terms of what this could look like in the NBA...I’m not sure. I think the potential is there for Bolmaro to be a primary ball-handler in the second unit in time (not a lot different to what he’s doing now with Barcelona, only with more minutes). At the very least, he’s another ball-handler you could run a few plays through. Standing a 6 foot 7, the ability to create plays and run the offense is a valuable commodity.
I really do believe it spoke volumes that Barcelona entrusted the ball as often as they did when Bolmaro was on the floor, and I cannot state that enough. He was good at it too. That just doesn’t happen with a 19 year old in an established, EuroLeague team where, generally speaking, it’s so hard for those young players to break through and find game time. Heck, we looked at Amar Sylla not too long ago as part of this series...he was never going to get his breakthrough at Real Madrid at that time, one of the main reasons to look elsewhere was for opportunity.
That said, Bolmaro’s efficiency handling the ball needs improving, and his assist/turnover ratio needs improving upon.
Offensively, there are some obstacles to overcome.
It’s a tough evaluation... While he did see some time handling the ball, that same opportunity for him to shoot/score was not going to come at a team like Barcelona...there’s far too many established players above him in the pecking order. Playing with the senior side, Bolmaro averaged under four field goal attempts a game across the two competitions he featured in — there’s just not a lot you can really draw from that to make definitive conclusions in some aspects of his offense. With the B-Team, it was too much and, arguably, not representative.
So, what conclusions can we draw?
Well, I did enjoy Bolmaro’s pace. It’s not elite but it’s pacy enough to keep defenses concerned, whether it’s to get to the rim to score or to collapse the defense and find a teammate. He has some good hesitation moves and I enjoyed watching him shift through the gears at times, and that helps make up for any missing speed (which, again, there isn’t a ton missing). I also enjoyed Bolmaro in the open court when opportunities presented themselves. His handle I really think is solid — the ball belongs in his hands, and we saw how that opened some scoring opportunities for him (as well as the ability to find teammates). Combine that and the pace/burst, and that’s something you can work with.
He can stick through some runners off of the dribble/pick-and-roll, and this is a good starting point too.
However, the biggest thing Bolmaro will need to improve is his three-point shooting.
The opportunity simply didn’t exist with the senior side, with Bolmaro averaging less than an attempt a game in both the Liga Endesa (0.86 three-point attempts per game) or the EuroLeague (0.83). However, the opportunity did come with the B-Team — over six attempts a game.
While I believe that Bolmaro either wanted or was asked to do more than he should’ve been asked of offensively with the B-Team, you would like to see a better percentage than 28% from behind the arc. I think his form is fine, but perhaps the sheer number of attempts fatigued him slightly? Either way, it’s without a doubt the biggest area of improvement a team will be looking to see out of Bolmaro, and I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be possible given time.
In terms of what position Bolmaro will play in the NBA, he was basically a backup/third point guard this season and, despite his size, I don’t see Bolmaro playing a ton of the three in the NBA to begin. There could be a caveat if it’s small-ball, but even then, I’d have doubt due to his length (which isn’t bad, just not elite) and size but perhaps the defensive footwork and intelligence/instincts could make up for that. Mostly, I see Bolmaro being deployed in the backcourt in the NBA — that’s where his skill set gears towards.
I’d have a quick glance, when looking at footage, to see how many minutes Bolmaro played in whatever particular game I’d be looking at — just to see what I’m working with. With the senior side, it’s usually a lower amount, but when I saw him in action and the instant contributions he brings on both sides of the floor, I genuinely did not understand why he didn’t play more — he makes winning plays and he’s a meaningful contributor. It didn’t make sense, for the most part (there were obviously a few games where his inexperience showed at times).
The two things that came to mind as to why was this was the case...
Obviously, Barcelona is a huge club and such a club has a certain pull, and is able to sign prolific players who expect playing time. Basically, there’s a lot of mouths to feed, so minutes are spread around — 11 players (who played more than five games) averaged 15 or more minutes a game. There’s a lot of veterans on the team too, such as Alex Abrines, Victor Claver, Cory Higgins, Adam Hanga and former Hawk Malcolm Delaney, to name a few. Bolmaro would have to earn his way.
Another reason, and this is more on the hypothetical side, is that it makes sense for Barcelona, and their coach Svetislav Pesi, not to grow too much of a reliance on a player they didn’t necessarily need to rely on because that player probably won’t be around in the future.
Which brings us onto the next item to discuss, whether or not Bolmaro will be brought over or not.
It obviously depends on the team that drafts him... You could obviously stash him (though, if it’s just for a year, I’m not sure what the incentive for Barcelona is to do that when they’re stacked and know the player will be leaving in one year...two years would be more beneficial) but I actually believe Bolmaro might be too good to be stashed for that long.
There are two things that are keeping Bolmaro from being a lottery prospect: a few inches on his wingspan and a few percentage points on his three-point shooting. Everything else points to a lottery pick, and you don’t usually stash lottery picks.
Now, I don’t think Bolmaro ends up being selected in the lottery, but I absolutely believe Bolmaro is worthy of a first round selection. Generally speaking, prospects who perform well at a young age within established teams in Europe — especially ones that play in the EuroLeague — generally find some role in the NBA, and Bolmaro doesn’t turn 20 until September. He’s young and already performing at a high level — although in a limited role — and in a top division with a top team.
An established playoff team who isn’t able to get into the likes of the lottery could only hope that Bolmaro finds his way into their laps...
Will he fall to the second round? Or will he be the first Argentinian drafted in the first round in 17 years?
Time will tell...