Adem Bona: 2023 NBA Draft Scouting Report
Few bigs improved throughout the season in the way Bona did. Will he become a defensive specialist at the 5 moving forward?
After the conclusion of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, I sat down and penned a somewhat-rambling treatise on the value of rim-bound big men in today’s NBA. The link to that piece is below, and grapples with the challenges that come from playing a 5-man who cannot provide offensive impact for his team away from the basket.
The idea isn’t new, just getting played out in real-time during the NBA Playoffs. Versatility is a buzz word, and many of these screen-and-roll big men don’t provide any versatility on the offensive end.
When determining value, the matrix I tend to rely on discusses the intersection of versatility and impact. The most impactful big men end up in the top right quadrant, where they’re both versatile and impactful. That versatility comes in their role on offense, where they play on the floor, and how many different schemes they can unlock on defense.
Those guys aren’t necessarily easy to spot — they’re really rare and often take time to develop at the next level. But they’re not very controversial in terms of roster construction. I’m thinking of guys like Anthony Davis and Pascal Siakam here, who can play either the 4 or the 5 at an All-Star level and fit in different types of defensive schemes.
The real debate comes in on the top left or bottom right quadrants. What is better: a big man who can have a positive impact in one specific way, or a versatile piece who really blends in and isn’t incredibly good at one thing?
The first of three players to break down in this regard is Adem Bona, and he’s going to be a fascinating case study in this regard. Of the potential first-round big men, Bona is clearly the least comfortable with the ball in his hands. Those reps were rough this year at UCLA, as his mechanical movements and rushed decision-making resulted in consistent turnovers.
But Bona pushes the idea of versatility in a meaningful way: on the defensive end. The league seems to be evolving more toward aggressive pick-and-roll strategies, with bigs playing up at the level more in the regular season and trapping more during the playoffs.
Bona shows excellent impact in those areas, and his defensive tools away from the basket are as high as I can remember from a one-and-done big man.
As I try to solve the value equation for Bona, it’s worth noting that versatility doesn’t solely come in the form of what a player does on offense. So long as Bona can provide adequate impact as a rim-rolling screener on that end, I tend to believe that his defensive versatility will be a coveted part of an NBA team’s playoff rotation moving forward.