Similar to every team in the association the Brooklyn Nets hope their players progress from last season to next. Unlike other league members the Nets bear a larger need for that to occur. No first round selection in next year’s draft resigns team improvement to internal measures. One player that may achieve this goal is Bojan Bogdanovic.
Last season Bogdanovic joined the Nets after 10 years in professional European leagues. He arrived as a mature rookie, both in age and basketball experience, but a rookie nonetheless. In his first season stateside Bogdanovic played in 78 games and started 28, advancing throughout the season.
Bogdanovic had this to say about being placed in the starting lineup.
“I can’t say I was surprised I got to [the] starting five for [the] Brooklyn Nets, but maybe I didn’t expect to go there so soon. [The] [k]ey thing was when I realized I could do this; I could compete with world’s best. I got trust from the coach, from the organization and my teammates, but I trusted myself as well.”
During a year in which Bogdanovic earned Second-Team All-Rookie honors he averaged 9 points, 0.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while averaging 23.8 minutes a night, Bogdanovic’s involvement with the team was limited to that of a role player. His primary role being a perimeter shooter, where he connected on 35.5% of three points attempts.
Like all role players Bogdanovic feasted off encouraging home game atmospheres and fared better in every major statistical category at home games. At home he averaged 10.3 points, 0.9 assists and 3 rebounds per game, while on the road his play declined and averaged 7.5 points per game, 0.8 assists per game and 2.4 rebounds per game.
When playing at the Barclays center Bogdanovic showed more confidence attempting 8.1 shots per game, juxtaposed to attempting 6.6 shots per game on the road. Not only was he shooting more, but he was shooting more efficiently with a 48.3% of successful field goals and 38.3% of made three-point shots. As a visitor he held a field goal percentage of 41.2% and three point percentage of 31.4%
Such a discrepancy must be neutralized in order for Bogdanovic to earn a larger place with the team. If he remained more consistent whether home or away Bogdanovic would evolve into a more trusted and valuable bench player. Leading the Nets bench as a shooter or leading it entirely as the sixth man would entail a large progression for Bogdanovic, but inconsistency in his play won’t allow for that to transpire. Should he curtail his home vs. road differences Bogdanovic would develop into an indispensable bench player and possibly a solid starter, which would be the first mark of a breakout campaign.
Although he displayed significant differences in play at home and on the road, his production increased after the All-Star break. With a smaller sample-size in the second half of the season (27 games played as opposed to 54 before the All-Star break) Bogdanovic averaged 11.6 points per game and shot 42.9% from three. An increase from the 7.6 points per game and 31% shooting demonstrate Bogdanovic’s understanding of NBA basketball and typical improvements for a rookie, both of which promise potential for next season as he continues to learn and advance.
Continuing his perimeter shooting efficiency from after the All-Star break or improving it could reward him with a starting role, but improving other facets of his game would all but guarantee that. By growing more comfortable with the ball in his hands and scoring off the dribble and/or facilitating Bogdanovic would demand respect from defenders in every capacity, not only as a shooter.
Increasing the time Bogdanovic spends handling the ball would be manageable, to say the least. Last season 4.4% of Bogdanovic’s possessions occurred in isolation situations, while a mere 8% arose as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to NBA.com’s play-by-play data.
Handling the ball more, leading to assists and baskets in the paint would complement Bogdanovic’s game, which fundamentally lies as a three-point shooter. This area of his game develops more easily than his long-range shooting as he showed little ability to do so last season, though, at times, Bogdanovic shot proficiently. Challenging defenders by attacking the basket and passing joined by his shooting would place him a starting role and perhaps an appreciated one.
Little shooting remains on the roster as a result of the departures of Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson, meaning Bogdanovic will own a crucial role next season. Maintaining a strong shooting percentage as he demonstrated while at home and after the all-star break along with developing complementary elements to his game, namely ball handling, will define a potential breakout year.