When the Nets acquired Croatian baller Bojan Bogdanovic in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, the early reports from experts were – “first-round talent” or “a steal that late”.
After watching some video on BoBo, I began to see what those experts were saying. Bogdanovic possess a lot of the qualities you would expect to find in a prototypical NBA wingman (qualities we will get into in just a bit.)
But as I watched more video, I began to see some familiarities in his game to that of a player I have been watching excel in the league for years: Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce.
Let’s take a look.
Paul Pierce’s body is that of a throw-back, traditional NBA small forward. He checks in at 6’7″ and 235 lbs. He’s “big” by most standards and despite his physique not being overly impressive, Pierce can generally overpower players who can’t match his physicality. He has “deceiving strength,” if you will.
Bogdanovic also has what I would call the body of a traditional NBA small forward. Bogdanovic checks in himself at 6’8″ and 216 lbs. Much like Pierce, he does not have bulging muscles, but he isn’t slight either and he can certainly take advantage of a player not as strong or thick as himself.
While wouldn’t call either one of them “pure shooters,” Pierce and Bogdanovic can both make teams pay on the perimeter. For his career, Pierce is a 36.9% shooter from three, averaging 4.4 attempts per game. Bogdanovic’s three-point numbers are similar; last season he shot threes at a 34.1% clip, attempting 5.5 per game. Pierce has worked himself into being a very reliable free throw shooter, but his first three seasons in the league Pierce shot 71%, 79% and 74%. In the Euroleague last season, Bogdanovic shot 76% from the free throw line.
Their shooting is comparable by more than just numbers, though. Both Pierce and Bogdanovic don’t use a lot of lift in their jump shots. Both of them can create space for their perimeter shots on their own and do so with live dribbles, using shot fakes and jabs to move their defender out of position.
With neither Pierce nor Bogdanovic being athletic freaks (by today’s standards), they each rely slightly more on craft than raw athleticism on forays to the hoops.
As discussed earlier, than their shooting forces defenders to guard them to the three-point line and slightly beyond and makes their shot fakes and jabs more effective.
As Pierce’s game has slowed and evolved, he has become the master of the mid-post, step-back jumper. Pierce uses his body to create space, possibly better than any other wing in the NBA. Bogdanovic is obviously not at his level yet at all in regards to the use of his body, but I do see some early seedlings in his game that show he has the potential to get there.
Bogdanovic is the more live athlete, especially now, but as you will see in some of the following clips, more of BoBo’s drives to the hoop are the result of him having feinting or faking him and less a result of him blowing by opponents with sheer quickness and speed.
While their games are not identical, I do indeed see a lot Paul Pierce’s game in Bojan Bogdanovic. Paul Pierce never was the best athlete, but he was able to use what he had as well as his size and strength advantages to score in the NBA. When he got older, his game slowed down and he relies on hesitations, fakes and jabs to get the job done. Bogdanovic is already using some of those same fakes and jobs in order to get his shot off. BoBo has a long way to go to become Paul Pierce, but I think us Nets fans should feel optimistic about the type of career Bojan can have.