Bojan Bogdanovic, guard/forward
2015-2016: 26.8 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .433 FG%, .382 3P%, .833 FT%, 79 G
Who Is Bojan Bogdanovic?
Like every new Drake record, the promise of Bojan Bogdanovic has, so far, outweighed the results. The Brooklyn Nets’ resident Croatian is a sweet-shooting wing that might remind you of your IT guy, but dude can ball, make no mistake. Don’t forget, Bogdanovic dropped 44 points on the Philadelphia 76ers last year and he seemingly spends his time Jason Bourn-ing his way out of sticky situations — so he’s not somebody we ever want to mess with.
(By the way, for my money, he could also pass for a successful realtor, DJ, trainee teacher, or, perhaps, a super-yacht salesman…)
The problem, however, is that the 27 year-old is yet to have as much of an impact as his talent might suggest. With a new head coach and an almost entirely revamped roster coming into 2016-2017, there’s plenty of cause for hope with Bogdanovic … hopefully.
As pointed out in our Nine Thoughts To Keep Your Spirits Up Heading Into the 2016-17 Season, Bogdanovic lead the Rio Olympics with an impressive 25.3 points per game; all but guaranteeing that he had a better time in Brazil than anybody not named Simone Biles. During the Olympics, Bogdanovic was everywhere, showing of how much of a versatile scorer he can be when the focal point of an offense.
Unfortunately for him, however, he won’t be the focal point in Brooklyn; he’s an ancillary part of an offense that will rely on wings like him to hit shots after a steady diet of pick and rolls run through Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez.
Last year, Bogdanovic averaged 11.2 points in just under 27 minutes a game, even receiving a nice boost after the Nets cut loose Joe Johnson in February. With a slightly-expanded role following his promising rookie year — where he made the All-Rookie 2nd team — Bogdanovic shot significantly worse from the field in 2015-2016, dropping from 45.3% to 43.3%. Additionally, Bogdanovic improved from behind the arc, shooting 38.2% compared to his 35.5% mark in 2014-2015; also hitting on 39.2% of his catch and shoot three-pointers — which will make him an important part of that Brook-Lin pick and roll; but saw his eFG% fall from 53.2% to 51.9%.
Overall, Bogdanovic’s TS% dipped from 56.2% to 55% — which, incidentally, puts him on par with Kent Bazemore’s 2015-2016 season — and his PER decreased from 11.6 to 10.7, meaning, by all accounts, that he had a pretty average season.
The trick for Bogdanovic will be incorporating the playmaking, scoring, and swagger we saw with Croatia to the role ascribed him by Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson. Understandably, a lot of Bogdanovic’s success will come from Atkinson knowing how to use him…. because, well, Lionel Hollins didn’t. After January 10th — when Hollins was fired — Bogdanovic averaged 12.7 points per game in 25 minutes. Then, following the All-Star break, interim head coach Tony Brown figured out that, yeah, the sharpshooter can be pretty damn good.
From there on out, along with the aforementioned waiving of Johnson, the Croatian shot over 40% from three and averaged 15.1 points in 28 minutes per game. The Nets will — obviously — hope that’s an indicator of what’s to come in 2016-2017.
What Does Bogdanovic Bring to the Table?
By now, we’re well-versed in what Bogdanovic can do offensively, but can he fit in Atkinson’s swarming/switching defense without dooming the whole thing?
According to the eye test, Bogdanovic improved on the defensive end in 2015-2016 — however, the numbers tell a much more dire story:
During his rookie year, opposing players only shot 1.5% better than their average while defended by Bogdanovic, or 44.8% versus 43.3%. Last year, however, that rose to 6.4%, as opponents shot 50.3% from the field against the Croatan, rather than their usual 43.9%, firmly placing him in the “yikes” category of red flags.
Even more damning is that Bogdanovic finished last year with a 109.4 defensive rating, per Synergy, versus his 100.6 offensive rating, equaling out to a -8.8 net rating. That’s JaVale McGee territory, which is, um, not great. Heck, JaVale’s mother, Pamela and former no. 2 overall WBNA selection in 1997, might even balk at that.
The numbers are pretty brutal, sure, but they also need to be put in context of how poor the 2015-2016 Nets were defensively. Brooklyn allowed a league-worst 47.8% from the field and opponents scored 106 per game against them, good for 7th-worst in the NBA. Considering that nobody on the Nets’ roster last year — except for little-used Sergey Karasev… yeah, what’s that about? — posted a positive differential, the defensive numbers don’t paint the whole picture…
…and that’s because the whole picture was a flaming tower tumbling to the ground.
In general, defensively, Bogdanovic worked hard and got better at staying in front of his man during 2015-2016, even if he was often operating from an athletic disadvantage against quicker opposition. On the flip side, Bogdanovic often his own size advantage while operating as a two-guard and he and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should be interchangeable on the wing — leaving the former to take the lesser threat while Hollis-Jefferson destroys the soul of whoever he’s guarding.
The Bogdanovic Highlight Reel Theater
The Bottom Line:
If Bogdanovic can grow under Atkinson — no longer subject to the whims of whipper-snapper yankage from ol’ Lionel Hollins — and brings some of that swagger back from Rio — he attempted 9.3 free throws per game there! — heading into his third NBA season, then he ought to be able to solidify his position as the Nets’ third option. And, really, if some Olympic Bogdanovic popped up, then it’d go a far way towards fulfilling his playoff prediction for the Nets in 2016-2017.
If that happened, it’d be a win for everyone, but particularly so for JaVale McGee.