A 26-year-old NBA sophomore, Bogdan Bogdanovic’s path to the league was delayed by three years after being drafted late in the first round in 2014. The move paid off in a big way; he was able to up his value playing for Fenerbahce in Turkey and, by waiting the mandated three years, negotiated his own contract with the Sacramento Kings rather than being tied to the league’s rookie scale. The difference is stark, as Bogdanovic will make $27 million over his first three years in the league, rather than the paltry $3.1 million he would have made over the same stretch had he made his switch to the NBA a year earlier.
For Sacramento, his acquisition was one of the better trades they’ve made in recent memory — during the 2016 draft, the Kings moved down five spots from No. 8 to No. 13 and picked up Bogdanovic’s rights, the No. 28 pick in the same draft, and a 2020 second-rounder in a swap with the Phoenix Suns. In the grand scheme of things, this was a relatively small move that has paid huge dividends for the Kings, and that’s even with them completely wasting that No. 13 pick on Georgios Papagiannis.
After a strong rookie campaign that earned him second-team All-Rookie honors, Bogdanovic is back and better than last year, sporting essentially identical efficiency on higher usage to go with improved numbers across the board: He’s assisting on more of his team’s possessions when he’s on the floor but not turning the ball over nearly as much, and he’s even upped his rebounding slightly.
The passing numbers are of particular interest, as the Kings will often employ Bogdanovic as the primary playmaker in some second-unit lineups when fellow sophomore sensation De’Aaron Fox is out of the game. The dip in turnover percentage from 2017-18 has been his largest improvement — despite the uptick in usage, Bogdanovic is turning the ball over on fewer than one in ten possessions, a mark that ranks him among the elite tier of combo guards on Cleaning the Glass.
As a key part of his role as the Kings’ pseudo-backup point guard, Bogdanovic is called upon to handle the ball in pick-and-roll quite a bit in Dave Joerger’s system. Sacramento hasn’t been immensely successful in these possessions, scoring just 86.7 points per 100 possessions on Synergy-tracked plays that ended with Bogdanovic shooting, getting fouled, or passing out of a pick-and-roll, which ranks 80th out of 99 players who have handled the ball on at least 150 pick-and-roll possessions. Still, Bogdanovic has made strides in this area of his game, even though the results aren’t quite there for him and the Kings so far this season.
An uptick in his finishing, both in volume and efficiency, has been another aspect to his improved game this season. He’s getting to the rim more often than he did last season, shooting a much higher percentage once he gets there, and more of those shots are self-created. He possesses surprising strength going to the rim and is able to put his shoulder through bigger players when need be, though you’ll see him use a variety of patient scoop layups with either hand around the rim more often than he plays bully ball, especially in pick-and-roll against a true center.
Offensively, Bogdanovic is the sort of all-around wing who can fit into any system. His ability to handle the ball, pass, and finish around the rim makes him a threat in the pick-and-roll game as a team’s primary playmaker, but unlike a lot of players with that set of skills, he’s also able to step out of the spotlight and space the floor extremely well. In a move toward the modern NBA, he’s eschewed a lot of mid-range jumpers for threes and shots at the rim this season, which has helped boost his efficiency in a season in which he’s shooting “just” 37 percent from beyond the arc, down from 39 percent last year.
A strong spot-up threat, he’s scored nearly 130 points per 100 possessions in catch-and-shoot situations, which ranks better than 89 percent of the league, per Synergy.
The other side of the floor is what separates Bogdanovic from his more accomplished peers on the wing. There’s really no getting around it, he’s just not particularly good defensively. He flashes strong knowledge of defensive principles but doesn’t consistently act on that knowledge, whether through a lack of effort or being a split-second late to recognize what an offense is trying to do. He fouls far too much for how little he brings as a perimeter stopper and doesn’t crash the defensive glass.
His biggest positive on the defensive end is his size, which makes him flexible in defensive assignments. Listed at 6’6 and 205 pounds, Bogdanovic is able to capably guard anybody from shooting guards to power forwards, as he showed in a recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers, when Joerger had him matched up with Seth Curry on one possession and Zach Collins the next. That versatility makes it easier for the Kings to hide him on their least-threatening opponent and keeps him out of the majority of pick-and-roll coverages, where he struggles.
While nothing special as an off-ball defender, he’s better in these spots than if he’s actively involved in one-on-one or pick-and-roll defense. In one of his better defensive possessions this year, watch how he quickly rotates over to deter Damian Lillard’s drive to the rim, then is able to stand up strong to Collins’ attempt to back him down.
This is Bogdanovic at his best defensively — he can be quick to rotate, overload the strong side of the floor, and does a good job of pushing Collins away from the rim to force the shot clock violation. On the other hand, there are moments in which he is too focused on what’s happening on the strong side to recognize what’s going on elsewhere on the court.
As Jusuf Nurkic posts up against Harry Giles, he’s ready to help. But when his man, Evan Turner, steps out of the corner to set a hammer screen for Al-Farouq Aminu, Bogdanovic sees none of it and Aminu is wide open for a corner three.
With another year on his contract after this one for just $8.5 million, the Kings have to be thrilled with their initial investment in Bogdanovic. He’s an immensely versatile offensive player, capable of playing both with and without the ball, and allows them to play all sorts of interesting lineup combinations. In particular, his ball handling ability affords them the opportunity to play lineups with no true point guard, which have proven to be better defensively for Sacramento, as one would expect. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be an above-average perimeter defender, but he’s big enough (while not being too big) to be flexible on that end with his assignments and executes well enough most of the time to not kill them.
The icing on the cake for Sacramento is that they signed him to a three-year contract, which means he’ll be subject to restricted free agency in 2020. His qualifying offer and cap hold will be significant, but the Kings will retain the right to match any offer he receives on the market in a year and a half. If he continues to show what he can do offensively and remains an unspectacular but versatile defender, he should receive strong interest across the league in 2020.