Jonah Bolden to play in Israel this season

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

With Philadelphia’s summer league season plagued by losses of both games and the team’s first overall pick, one of the main bright spots was the 36th overall pick in the draft, Jonah Bolden. I wrote a piece on FanRag Sports regarding his strong summer league play over the weekend. The tl;dr version is that Bolden was a hyperactive athlete with excellent, two-way potential as a stretch big.

Sixers fans were understandably hopeful that Bolden would find a way to crack the roster and show what he can do against NBA competition this season. However, following the latest report Monday, it appears we won’t be seeing the Australian big man on this side of the Atlantic this season.

Bolden will be transferring from his former team, Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, to Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. Maccabi plays domestically in the Israeli Premier League and internationally in the Euroleague, widely considered the world’s top league outside of the NBA (sorry Big 3). As David Pick points out, it’s a much better basketball situation for the former UCLA Bruin.

Obviously, having Bolden suit up for the Sixers this season was what many fans were hoping for after seeing him terrorize opponents on the defensive end in summer league play. However, playing for Maccabi for at least a year might be best for all parties involved.

With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes, and Amir Johnson already holding down rotational spots in the frontcourt, there wasn’t a clear path to playing time for Bolden with the big club. The second-round pick still needs to refine his game, particularly in regard to shot selection, and regular playing time is the best way to do it. Going up against Euroleague competition will likely be better for his development than playing in the G-league. Personally, he’ll also make more money overseas than if he signed one of the NBA’s new two-way contracts.

From the Sixers perspective, they’ll push the timetable on Bolden’s first contract back another year into the future. Although it doesn’t seem like it at the moment, the salary cap will be somewhere Philadelphia will need to think about before too long, as guys like Embiid and Robert Covington get new deals and the team looks to make a big splash in free agency. Having guys like Bolden, who can help the team as a rotational player on a cheap contract, will be incredibly valuable down the road.

Keep perfecting that jumper, Jonah, and enjoy Israel. We’ll see you in 2018.

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