Argentinian prospect Leandro Bolmaro is happy at FC Barcelona where he still stay for at least this season. Bolmaro is a big guard who can move the ball quickly around the court and lock up on the defensive end. He’ll get a chance to develop under the watch of new head coach, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, who has turned young guards into stars in the past.
Bolmaro grew up in Cordoba, Argentina. When he was younger, he played for the youth teams of Almafuerte de las Varillas but he was more successful on the track early on. Bolmaro was one of the best decathletes in the country until 2016, when he gave it up to focus on basketball. In 2017, he made Argentina’s U17 National Team which took silver in the South American championships, thanks in part to Bolmaro’s 13.8 points per game.
After his first experiences abroad in the Summer of 2017, Bolmaro moved to Bahía Basket where he was coached by Sebastián Ginobili, brother of Manu. He had opportunities in Europe but played one last season in Argentina first. His playing time was limited, 178 minutes over 25 games, for the pro team while he was the star of the development team.
When Bolmaro arrived at Barcelona in 2018, he played for the developmental team which struggled through LEB Oro, the second division in Spain. He averaged 10.4 points and held his own in a tough league for the young team, mostly made up of prospects playing against pros.
In 2019-2020, Bolmaro practiced with the men’s team, whose roster included Nikola Mirotić, Cory Higgins, Malcolm Delaney, Brandon Davies, Ante Tomić, Alex Abrines, and Victor Claver. He played some with this team especially when starting point guards Thomas Heurtel and Kevin Pangos went down with injury. In total, Bolmaro played 116 minutes through 9 ACB (top Spanish league) games and 55 minutes through 6 Euroleague games. After the health situation improved, he played much less with the senior team and began occasionally appearing more with the second team. Because of their placement in the previous season, Barcelona’s B team played a lower division, LEB Plata, where they were much more fairly matched. Bolmaro played very well in his nine appearances there, averaging 14.9 points, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals.
Throughout the season, Bolmaro was unhappy with his playing time and asked to be loaned multiple times, his request was denied every time. This is not an indictment on Bolmaro but a result of the mindset at Barcelona under coach Svetislav Pesić and his approach to NBA prospects.
After the 2019-2020 season, Pesić was fired and Jasikevičius took over as head coach. Jasikevičius is a former NBA player and European star who is known for his talent development, especially when it comes to guards. In his short time in coaching he’s credited with the huge improvements that Kevin Pangos and Vasilije Micić made during their time with him at Žalgiris. Bolmaro, who has publicly stated he prefers to stay in Barcelona instead of going to the NBA immediately, has to be thrilled that he could be next in line to become a star under Šaras’ watch. At the very least, Jasikevičius will not sit Bolmaro specifically because of his draft stock like Pesić did.
Bolmaro has great positional size, even for a 2-guard, but he has point guard skills. His body is long and lanky without much muscle. His lack of strength is a glaring issue when going for rebounds and finishing around the rim. It’s something he will have to work hard to address but he has a decent frame to build some muscle without losing athleticism. He has good feet and a really quick first step. Bolmaro is fast in the open court with long strides.
Bolmaro’s speed is on full display with the ball in his hands, he’s extremely shifty and quick to get downhill. He does a great job of putting the ball on the floor immediately after a catch. He uses either hand well but clearly prefers his right when he can get to it. His counter moves are strong and he does a great job of quickly changing direction.
Bolmaro loses the ball too much for how good his handle is. He seems to move too fast for his own good at times. He’s skinny and weak which sets him back in traffic. At times, he bends too much at the waist, this hinged position magnifies his turnover problem because his balance is off-center.
Bolmaro is a high level passer. His vision is impressive, and he makes smart decisions with the ball. He throws great live dribble passes with both hands, though he prefers his right. He frequently jumps for two-hand overhead passes to get a more advantageous passing angle. However, he relies on these jump passes a little too much. If the defense reads it correctly and gets to the passing lane, he can get caught in the air without any open teammates.
He does a great job of driving to kick and getting to the paint to pass. He stays patient and doesn’t leave the ground to draw help and find teammates when he’s putting pressure on the paint. Because of his positional size, he frequently has a size advantage which draws more help to the paint and more open teammates.
The most impressive part of Bolmaro’s game is the quick decisions he makes on the catch. A lot of times that means an immediate extra pass to a shooter or open player near the basket. Part of this is due to Bolmaro’s high IQ movement off the ball. He cuts and moves to create space and better scoring situations for teammates.
In one minute of game time, Leandro Bolmaro throws three of his go-to passes. 1, One handed bounce pass below the arms of the defense to hit the roll man. 2, Quick ball movement immediately on the catch. 3, Drive and kick -> overhead jump pass. pic.twitter.com/QuGGJTyCDW— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 11, 2020
Bolmaro is excellent running the pick and roll. He does a great job turning the corner hard to get downhill and put pressure on the rim coming off a screen. On a switch, he shows patience backing out and waiting for space to go by the big man.
He frequently goes to a whip pass to quickly get it to the roll man. He uses his jump passes to throw over both defenders when he’s under pressure coming off a screen. He can quickly find an open man in the advantage situation and punish overaggressive PnR defense.
The progress of Bolmaro’s shot is the most important piece of his development. Bolmaro came to Barcelona with somewhat of a hitch and issues with timing his release. His shot timing is very inconsistent, it’s sometimes rushed and he sometimes appears to release too late. He also has an issue turning his wrist in at almost a 90 degree angle on his follow-through. He seems to be addressing this issue as it happens less frequently but one solution is dropping his hands too early and not following through which isn’t an improvement. His shot was much more fluid and consistent in the most recent season. In his very limited action in the ACB restart, Bolmaro’s shot was much smoother.
His shooting numbers have not yet reflected the visible improvements, shooting 29.3% on 75 attempts from 3 this season. His volume did increase in the 2nd division this season, where he took 6.3 3s per game in the 9 games in that division. He shot 27/38 on free throws which tracks with his 70.5% free throw shooting on just 118 career attempts on record.
Bolmaro is still working through some mechanical issues and his very impressive touch on floaters is promising. His shot is still far from a finished product. Despite the strides he’s made and evidence of touch, his career percentages don’t portend elite shooting at any point in Bolmaro’s future.
Bolmaro would rather shoot from floaters or outside the paint layups where he has good touch and can effectively create space. He rarely goes up at the rim with defenders around. Even against smaller players, he doesn’t get much pop off the ground and has issues controlling the ball on the way up. With his ability to get to the paint, it would be a very positive development if Bolmaro utilizes his length and touch to become a better finisher. He may never be a heavy rim scorer but his inability to finish in any kind of traffic must be addressed.
Bolmaro doesn’t like physicality, especially around the rim. Instead, he’s developed this “pull-up floater” from 5-10 ft range. pic.twitter.com/qSic4tvD6x— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 11, 2020
Bolmaro can guard quick point guards, a lot of times picking them up behind half-court. He is very active on the ball, constantly moving his feet and hands. He takes small, quick steps on the ball and overall does a great job of keeping his man in front of him. When he does get beat by a step or two, he takes bad angles to cut off his man and rarely catches up. He does get into trouble reaching on the ball but he gets enough deflections and causes enough havoc with his hands that it’s typically worth the trade-off.
Bolmaro sees screens and adjusts to them early but he doesn’t get skinny enough and hits them with too much of his body. He does a good job of adjusting once he makes contact but the amount of contact he makes isn’t ideal. He puts himself behind where he struggles to get back in position.
Bolmaro’s hands and eyes are always moving in help. While he does have issues with overhelping and ball watching, he’s a smart team defender. Too often, he takes bad chances that don’t work out but his IQ is high off the ball. As he gains more experience at levels where those chances will be punished, his issues in team defense should work themselves out.
A pesky defender with Bolmaro’s size picking up in the backcourt cannot be fun for a 5′ 10″ point guard like Andrew Albicy pic.twitter.com/dNknv6QunJ— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) September 11, 2020
Leandro Bolmaro didn’t get much playing time with the senior team of Barcelona. It’s not uncommon for prospects to struggle to play for Pesić in his time at Barcelona. 2018 2nd round pick Rodions Kurucs was under similar restrictions. Pesić said publicly that benching Kurucs was a corporate decision, calling the NBA an “invasion” which overshadows basketball in Europe. Before his second of two seasons with Barcelona, Kurucs withdrew from the draft pool when he realized his buyout of more than $4 million would be a deterrent for NBA teams. Kurucs played just 62 total minutes with the senior team over two seasons before being drafted. He was relegated to coming off the bench for the developmental team in his final season with Barcelona after the contract dispute. Kurucs ended up averaging 20.5 minutes in his first NBA season, nearly identical to his average in LEB Oro (the second league of Spain) the previous season. Based on Kurucs’ experience, and Pesić’s opinion on the NBA, there is reason to believe that Bolmaro wasn’t given the opportunities he deserved this season.
Jasikevičius will give him chances this season. If Bolmaro can learn from him like other young guards have done in the past, he’s going to skyrocket in value between now and the Euroleague Final Four in May. Maybe even by November, or whenever the draft actually happens this year. But if he’s serious about staying at Barça, whoever decides to take him will know that he’s in good hands and getting valuable experience in the second best league in the world. Maybe they’ll even bring him over when they hire Jasikevičius as their next head coach.
Bolmaro was overwhelmed at times when he did play with the senior team. He struggled to find ways to score in his limited time (less than 200 minutes) in ACB and Euroleague. He is limited at the rim especially with the bigger athletes at higher levels. His shooting from 3 is still coming along. Against lesser competition, he’s been shooting with more volume but his percentages are not encouraging. Bolmaro’s form is fine, wrist issues and all, but his numbers are still lacking. At the moment, he’s a below average NBA scorer at every level.
Despite issues with scoring, Bolmaro is a high level playmaker that can still add a lot of value on the offensive end in other ways. He can bring the ball up the court as well as terminate offense in the pick and roll. He is very quick with the ball in his hands and puts a lot of pressure on the paint. Bolmaro is a skilled passer with great vision. While he does have issues with turnovers on the ball, he is improving at handling tough pressure.
Bolmaro’s playmaking is by far his most valuable offensive skill, but he doesn’t yet do enough off the ball to be a contributor at the NBA level. His ball moving is elite, but there are other areas where he is lacking. Making catch and shoot 3’s and getting to the rim to create are his biggest areas for improvement in terms of scoring but they’re also the shots he would get the most early on in the NBA.
Bolmaro’s defense on the ball is very impressive. His hands and feet are both extremely active on the ball. He’s very aggressive and energetic the entire length of the court. He needs more reps to improve his PnR defense and his positioning in help but the IQ is there. His size and quickness allows him to be the primary defender guarding 1-3, and he can switch to smaller 4s in most situations.
Bolmaro would struggle to make an immediate impact in the NBA. His handle will hold him back from being trusted to run a lot of PnR which he uses so well to create offense for others. Without an improved jumpshot, there are not a lot of ways for him to help off the ball. Defensively, his versatility and ability to harass more athletic players around the perimeter will be valuable in whatever role his offensive development arc dictates. He should grow into a better ballhandler who can come off the bench to play spot minutes at PG. If he can develop as a scorer he could fill a starter or 6th man role as an off-ball guard who can terminate offense, move the ball quickly around the perimeter, and score in higher leverage situations while running the offense for shorter chunks of time when the starting point guard is on the bench.