It’s been a season of adjustment for Nets rookie Bojan Bogdanovic. A longer three-point line. The new feel of the NBA basketball. The natural adjustment that comes with a 25-year-old moving overseas to a new climate and culture for a high-pressure, high-travel job. Even right down to a mid-season bench role on basketball’s biggest stage.
Q: Your coach Lionel Hollins says that you have to play more aggressive. What are you doing to be more aggressive?
A: Well right now (smiles), very little. I know I have to be more aggressive, but its(sic) not always easy to be aggressive when you don’t have the ball too much in your hands, but I will do what ever the coach wants from me.
Bogdanovic has a right to say something: there’s literally no rotation player in the NBA who touches the ball less than Bogdanovic, averaging 22.3 touches in 22.6 minutes per game. That’s right: of the 145 qualifying players[note]Minimum 40 games and 20 minutes per game[/note], Bogdanovic is the only player in the NBA averaging fewer than one touch per minute.[note]Two notes: 1) Interestingly enough, second on the list is fellow Nets wing Alan Anderson, and 2) if you expand to 35 games & 15 minutes per game, Bogdanovic is joined by spot-up shooter Anthony Morrow and center Bismack Biyombo in the “under one touch per minute” club.[/note]
Bogdanovic is not used to this kind of shutout. He was the first option in Euroleague, leading his teams in scoring in each of his last four years before leaving for the NBA this past offseason.
Billed as a shooter with an attack-the-basket mentality, Bogdanovic has shot just a hair under 30 percent from NBA three-point range on almost exclusively open three-point shots, and has done little to generate offense in isolation or pick-and-roll sets. Despite his on-the-ball success in Europe, his primary mode of scoring has been on backdoor cuts to the basket, getting layups from Kevin Garnett passing out of the high post:
On this play, you can see Garnett look for Bogdanovic at the rim twice, the first time to no avail with the defense collapsing, and the second for the layup. It’s a heady play from both players, but it’s also Bogdanovic’s most impressive contributions, a reduction for a player with his scoring mentality that drew comparisons (from us) to a poor man’s Paul Pierce back in 2011.
Bogdanovic recognizes Garnett’s contributions to his success, calling himself “lucky” to play with Garnett earlier this year. It shows in the numbers: Bogdanovic averages 3.7 shots per 36 minutes in the restricted area with Garnett on the floor, compared to 2.7 with him on the bench, with most of them coming on a quick, smart cut in Brooklyn’s occasionally-run flex offense.
Also from the interview, Bogdanovic lauded James Harden as the toughest player he’s had to cover yet, which isn’t hard to believe (just scroll down to the last GIF), said he’s had no rookie hazing from the Nets, and added he has a “good” relationship with Nets coach Lionel Hollins.
Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year contract, with no shortage of time to right his ship. It wasn’t long ago that Mirza Teletovic went through an identical situation, struggling in his first year with the Nets before flourishing into a significant three-point threat down the stretch in year 2. Only time will tell if Bogdanovic has that turnaround in him.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com. Note: the original version of this post erroneously referred to total touches per game as frontcourt touches. The article has been edited to reflect that the statistics referenced refer to total touches per game, not just frontcourt touches.