Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden needs to find offensive consistency

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

If Jonah Bolden is going to make it onto the Philadelphia 76ers 15 man roster, he’s going to need to find consistency on the offensive end of the court.

When Jonah Bolden was added to the Philadelphia 76ers summer league roster his goal was clear: do enough to finally make the team after spending all of 2017 playing in Europe.

However, after signing a trio of big men this offseason in swing forward Wilson Chandler, backup center Amir Johnson, and the team’s most recent addition, 6-foot-10 shooter Nemanja Bjelica, that may be easier said than done.

While this goal is surely attainable, as the 22-year-old obviously flashed enough to be selected 36th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, if Bolden is going to bypass another year’s stay in Israel playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, he’s going to need to find some consistency on the offensive end of the court. Currently slotted as the team’s starting center, Bolden has once again looked like a legitimate player as a big bodied power forward capable of manning the five spot when his team goes small, but much like last summer, he’s struggled to find consistency at the offensive end of the court.

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And if his recent string of lowlight airball threes is of any indication, that may be easier said than done.

Though Bolden has been far from a scrub so far this summer, finishing out the first three games of the Summer League averaging seven points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals, his three-point shooting percentage has been atrocious, even for a center (16 percent). Often tabbed a stretch four wingman in the vein of Dwight Powell during the pre-draft process, Bolden’s length, speed, and tenacity could be a major asset to a team looking to develop a multi-dimensional two-way big.

Which brings us to the question the 76ers must ask themselves: Is the team trying to win now, or develop prospects for the future?

After losing Ersan Ilyasova to the Milwaukee Bucks on the first day of free agency, the 76ers are obviously looking to cultivate a shooting big man to play alongside Ben Simmons in a death lineup-esque three-point heavy assault, a role many envisioned Bolden playing, but it’s abundantly clear that at least right now he likely can’t fill that role this fall. In one-to-two seasons, maybe, but if he were to make the team in 2018, we are looking at a Furkan Korkmaz-esque deep bench developmental rookie year.

That, however, would not be the case for a player like Bjelica.

While Bjelica has almost no room to grow at the ripe old age of 30 and is basically a non-factor on defense, he’s coming off of a season where he knocked down 41.5 percent of the 2.7 3-pointers he attempted a game last season. Sure, this could be a fluke, as his 2016-2017 shooting percentage from deep was only 31.6 percent, but it’s safe to assume that if he makes the squad, he’ll be logging roughly 20 minutes a night perched on the wings waiting for a well-placed dime from Simmons, Markelle Fultz or T.J. McConnell. Even though Bolden is already an NBA level defensive big man, with Amir Johnson already on the roster, that’s much less important than some unlikely offense from a big man on the wings.

Fortunately for Bolden, he still has time to extensively force the team’s hand before training camp even starts, for better or for worse.

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If Jonah Bolden can put it all together and start knocking down shots from downtown over the next five games, we could be looking at a perfect complement for Embiid, Johnson and Richaun Holmes in the Philadelphia 76ers frontcourt. But if not, he may be forced to spend one more fall overseas, honing his two-way talents for another shot at making the team in 2019.