Bojan Bogdanovic has a report card to be proud of.
Remember report cards? A subject-by-subject accounting of what you’re good at, and what you’re not. If you struggle, your parents give you a good chastising ... or worse. A strong report card goes on the refrigerator; it probably comes with ice cream.
All of the above stats are from Synergy Sports. He’s very good coming off of screens: 1.07 points per play. Excellent in transition: 1.27 points per play. Excellent as a spot up shooter: 1.21 points per play. Excellent as a pick-and-roll ballhandler: 0.98 points per play. Very good as a cutter: 1.38 points per play. Good on handoffs: 0.96 points per play. Only average on isolations: 0.75 points per play. And yeah, below average on post-ups: 0.839 points per play.
Still, that Bogdanovic is as good as he is at so many facets of offense makes him a very difficult player to guard. It’s not that Bogey — as fans in Indiana have started calling him — is brilliant at making something out of nothing: That isolation score is a good sign of that. Bogdanovic isn’t really efficient when taking advantage of switches and mismatches; the idea is that he’ll open up space for those (like Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell) who can.
But what he is very good at is making the very most of a defense’s weaknesses in so many different ways. This starts with his 3-point shooting: If teams leave him open, he’ll knock it down. He’s a very good above-the-break 3-point shooter, but he’s an excellent corner 3 shooter: He made fully 52% of his corner 3s last year, and 47% the year before. If you watched the Jazz in the playoffs, I don’t have to tell you — the difference between making and missing open 3s can be the difference in a large number of basketball games.
Defenses know how deadly of a shooter Bogdanovic is, so they close out hard. But he’s become very adept at taking advantage of this by driving and then finishing at the rim, even when the help comes.
They also sell out to prevent him from getting shots coming off of screens, which opens up those backdoor cuts. Bogdanovic is really good at that chuck move: taking a few steps out to the perimeter, getting his defender on his back, and then taking advantage of the space inside. Indiana coach Nate McMillan created some nice sets to take advantage of this, and I’d expect no less from Quin Snyder, especially with an offseason of preparation.
And then despite his not-terrific athleticism, Bogdanovic just knows how to fill those lanes in transition, and can either finish or get himself sent to the free-throw line (he’s also an above-average foul-drawer among small forwards in the NBA). While the Jazz ran more frequently last season, they weren’t actually all that efficient in scoring in transition, finishing 25th out of 30 teams, according to Synergy. Bogdanovic should help.
In pick-and-roll, Bogdanovic is just smart. He uses all of the tricks, from putting the defender behind him, to screening and re-screening, and more. One of his most consistent moves is to reject the screen: He’ll lean and step toward the screen, then quickly burst toward the rim and score. He’s capable of making the right play out of these, but he’s definitely score first, unlike someone like Joe Ingles.
Bogdanovic’s defense is interesting. Two playoffs ago, he was Indiana’s primary defender on LeBron James in a first-round playoff series. James averaged 34 points per game in that series, but Bogdanovic’s defense drew plaudits: He was physical, largely stayed in front, and made life tough for the best player in the world.
This season, he was often tasked with guarding the opponent’s best wing player, and his success at this was pretty dependent on what kind of player that was. Against quicker players, Bogdanovic has a hard time keeping up, but he seems to display the strength and smarts to hang with bigger guys. He ended up as a slight minus in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus stat, and given some conversations with Indiana watchers, that feels about right.
We’ll see how the Jazz end up sorting out the Ingles, Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang, and whoever else they end up signing in a power forward rotation, but I’d at least see how Bogdanovic can hang against the non-Blake Griffin power forwards of the world.
In trying to find a comparison that Jazz fans would relate to, I keep coming back to a hybrid Gordon Hayward-Ingles kind of player. All three use herky-jerky hesitation movements to create space for themselves, and all have this somewhat innate way of getting a defender off balance and taking advantage of it. All three are best defensively when they can use their physicality to stay in front, and struggle some when faced with speed.
Hayward was most athletic, and Ingles the least athletic, with Bogdanovic in the middle. Because of that, Bogdanovic is probably not quite as good in traffic and with a defender blanketing him in isolation as Hayward was, but is probably better than Ingles. Ingles and Hayward are better passers than Bogdanovic, but he shares some of their court sense.
Bogdanovic, though, might be the best of both worlds from a shooting point of view: He has Ingles’ dead-eye skills from deep on open shots, while retaining Hayward’s versatility and ability to hit from midrange.
All in all, Bogey figures to be a fascinating fit to the Jazz’s roster, opening up options for Snyder all over the floor. With Conley, Mitchell, Ingles, and Bogdanovic around Rudy Gobert, Snyder can craft an offense with threats all over the floor, one that really does figure to be one of the best in the NBA next season.