Coming off a roller coaster rookie season and an injury-riddled FIBA Eurobasket tournament, Brooklyn Nets swingman Bojan Bogdanovic enters a pivotal sophomore season.
The 6’8″ Croatian endured a rocky start to the 2014-15 campaign, but finished strong at the end of the regular season and playoffs. He shot 51 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-land after the All-Star break.
As year two approaches, Bogdanovic is likely prepping for a different, bigger role. Brooklyn’s roster is substantially different, and the departure of shooting forwards like Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic will result in more touches for Bogey.
What exactly is his optimal role on this Nets squad, and what can we expect from him during 2015-16?
Coach Lionel Hollins recently indicated to reporters that Bogdanovic is one of the favorites to land on the starting lineup (he started just 28 of 78 games last season). Ultimately, I agree that pairing him with Joe Johnson in the starting five is the best move.
Even though the Johnson-Bogdanovic duo yielded some sketchy defensive results last year, it’s still the team’s most potent offensive swingman combo by far. It gives the team multiple shooting threats on the wing, spaces the floor for Brook Lopez and allows both Johnson and Bogdanovic to operate on the weak side or strong side on any given possession.
Johnson has a more productive track record and is a more talented player, but it would be wise for Brooklyn to give Bogdanovic just as many touches this season. Johnson is 34 years old and way past his prime, whereas Bogdanovic is eight years younger and primed for an increased workload.
Last year, Johnson’s usage percentage was 20.3 and Bogdanovic’s was 17.2. Johnson attempted 19.0 field goals per 100 possessions and Bogdanovic tried 16.1.
Ideally, those numbers should be flip-flopped this season. Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily.com has more:
“…With Johnson on the decline and in the final year of his exorbitant contract, look for the Nets to seriously make Bogdanovic the second option (behind Lopez) on the offensive end. Johnson is their present (which is even pushing it considering they can dump him at the trade deadline). Bogdanovic is their future.”
Given his strong, assertive play toward the end of last season, the Nets share the belief that Bogdanovic should be a more featured weapon in 2015-16. YES Network broadcaster Ian Eagle relayed the team’s sentiment to WFAN’s Evan Roberts:
“They expect improvement,” said Eagle. “They don’t expect the Bojan Bogdanovic who was tentative at times last year, that was trying to figure out what his role was, trying to develop a niche in the NBA…By the playoffs you saw the capabilities and the way he can take over games offensively.”
So how exactly can the Nets maximize his talents moving forward?
It involves a healthy mix of on-ball and off-ball operation, as previously mentioned. We saw glimpses of it last year when Bogdanovic and Johnson were on the floor together.
Bogdanovic was much more efficient on catch-and-shoot attempts than pull-up jumpers last season (his effective field-goal percentage was 52 percent on catch-and-shoots, 37 percent on pull-ups). Therefore, the Nets should continue to mix in plenty of plays where he’s the spot-up option.
Watch how he burns the Orlando Magic defense during their pick-and-roll coverage. Johnson initiates the play and Bogey’s quick shooting release finishes the job:
When Bogdanovic puts the ball on the deck, he’s not a dazzling isolation creator or pick-and-roll wizard. However, he’s adept at making efficient drives of one or two dribbles when attacking closeouts. He’s good at finding creases when the defense isn’t set and capitalizing with assertive slashes.
The Nets can’t simply toss him the ball in stagnant half-court scenarios and expect him to size up the defense and thrive. They need to get him the ball after swinging it a couple times so he can pump fake or make a quick drive before the help defense is in optimal position.
Watch how the slightest complacency and misstep by the Cleveland Cavaliers costs them against Bogey. Shortly after catching it, he makes a decisive drive past Iman Shumpert and showcases his interior touch against Tristan Thompson:
Whether he’s catching the rock off a swing pass, a floppy set screen or a curl screen, the Nets should be able to find abundant opportunities to get him the rock in position to score. Once again, a healthy balance between off-ball movement and on-ball creation will do wonders for his game.
Bogdanovic’s defensive role shouldn’t change drastically because there’s only so much he can tweak. He was a substandard stopper by any measure last season, and he’ll likely be assigned to defend the least-threatening wing on the floor. His foot speed and vertical agility simply aren’t in the league’s top tier.
The only thing Hollins can do is try to avoid scenarios where Bogey is caught underneath the hoop or on an island in isolation. Bogdanovic’s defensive field-goal percentage within six feet of the hoop is a ghastly 65.8 percent.
Don’t expect Bogdanovic to instantly rise to stardom and carry Brooklyn to the playoffs, and don’t hope for a major improvement on the defensive end. But if the Nets utilize him properly, he can become a more involved and more dynamic catalyst in their offense. This increased and improved role could be the key to Brooklyn overachieving in 2015-16.