Bojan Bogdanovic’s struggles this season have been a constant source of consternation for Utah Jazz fans.
They see the nearly 5-points per game drop in scoring average from a year ago, the career-low field-goal percentage, the occasional bouts of turnovers in bunches when he puts the ball on the floor, the up-and-down 3-point stroke, the tendency to complain to referees about no-calls rather than getting back on defense … and many of them have begun clamoring for coach Quin Snyder to start giving some of Bogey’s minutes to sharpshooting, playmaking wing Joe Ingles.
For what it’s worth, Ingles says the Jazz are far better off with him playing alongside Bogdanovic rather than in place of him.
“He’s obviously a massive part of our team in what he does and what he brings to our group,” Ingles said. “… Yeah, a huge part of what we do — and I’ll make sure he keeps shooting the ball.”
It’s actually not the worst idea, considering the signs of progress the Bosnian has shown this month.
After scoring just 13.3 points per game on a cringeworthy 36.7 field-goal percentage during the Jazz’s 13 games in March, Bogey has bumped those numbers up 18.5 points on 45.7% shooting in their dozen games in April thus far.
His field-goal attempts have gone up from 11.3 to 13.7, and his free throws per game have similarly taken a promising bump, from 3.1 to 4.4 — perhaps an indication of his growing confidence.
The forward recognizes there is an urgency for him to round into form with only 13 regular-season games remaining.
“Just got to be ready, try to work more on my shot and on my 3-pointers so when it comes to the playoffs [I’ll] to be able to hit those big shots,” Bogdanovic said. “… Just be aggressive, especially when I’ve done a lot to get my game back to being ready for those big moments.”
Snyder, for his part, remains unconcerned.
All season long he’s noted that Bogdanovic’s wrist surgery last May — and his subsequent recovery process — would be a factor in the forward’s productivity. His inability to shoot a ball for months put him behind schedule. The residual feeling of physical discomfort has been a challenge to adjust to, as has the psychological component of trusting his body again.
Nevertheless, Snyder’s response was a bit of a surprise when he was asked after Wednesday’s win against the Rockets what he wants to see out of Bogdanovic over these final three-plus weeks of the season.
“I want to see him do just what he did tonight,” the coach replied.
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Yeah, that’s something of an eyebrow-raising comment when viewed through the prism of Bogey’s 4-for-13 shooting performance in Houston.
Snyder, naturally, was taking a broader perspective.
“I want to see him be aggressive with his shot. He’s [6-foot-8], and even if it’s contested, there’s times when he can get that shot off and there’s other times when he’ll shot-fake and make a read,” he added. “I think as he attacks the basket, he’s capable of making plays, and the more he continues to get in there and make reads about whether he’s going to finish or whether he’s going to kick it out, I think he’ll find himself getting to the foul line.”
It’s not just the shooting, either. Snyder argued that “we can get obsessed about offense,” then cited the other ways that Bogdanovic made an impact against the Rockets, praising him for being “aggressive on the defensive glass and getting hits and keeping his man or other people off off the defensive boards” and thus facilitating transition opportunities for the Jazz.
When told of that particular compliment, Bogey got a huge kick out of it, letting out a vociferous laugh and wryly noting, “That was big-time — I ended the game with zero rebounds!”
That, however, is a bit of the stats not telling the whole story. Bogdanovic pointed out that he did spend much of his night banging against and boxing out the 6-11, 240-pound Kelly Olynyk — a bit of physicality that made it easier for others to swoop in and clean the glass — Rudy Gobert grabbed 18 boards, Royce O’Neale had 13, the starting backcourt of Ingles and Mike Conley had six and five, respectively.
“He’s going to take shots, he’s going to make shots — some nights he’s going to make more than others. But the things that he needs to do to help our team win are the things that he did tonight,” Snyder reiterated.
Still, it’s that taking and making shots that probably will ultimately define him, and that may ultimately determine how far the Jazz can go.
His season-long scoring decline is not not that surprising when juxtaposed against significant increases from each of Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Conley and Ingles. While he was out last year, the Jazz changed; and so when he returned, his role changed, too. His usage rate is down from 25.5% last year to 21.2, and he’s averaging almost three fewer field-goal attempts per game than he did a year ago.
But it’s the efficiency with those shots — the 6-for-17 effort at Memphis, the 5-for-15 against the Lakers — that have fans worried.
Ingles, meanwhile, doesn’t worry about those nights as much as the 2-for-8 against Sacramento-type evenings.
He recognizes there have been times that Bogdanovic has been inconsistent and out-of-rhythm, and that when he gets particularly frustrated and starts fighting against himself, his natural inclination is to get more hesitant about letting it fly. The Aussie wants to see him keep pulling the trigger on those transition 3s, because “it’s a really good shot for him, but it’s a really good shot for our team as well.” He wants to see the mere threat of a Bogey 3 remain viable enough that he can pump-fake, get downhill on his man, and throw down a dunk.
“For all of us, the most frustrating part is when he’s not shooting it. We all want him to shoot it probably more than he wants to shoot it at times,” Ingles said. “… We want him to be aggressive. We need him to be aggressive on both ends of the floor.”