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Bojan Bogdanovic - a critical appraisal: what's good, what's bad, what's needed

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic hasn't cost the Nets much, other than some frustration. Nets acquired the 6'8" swingman on draft night 2011 for $1.25 million dollars and a second round pick in 2013 (who turned into Lorenzo Brown, who's still unsigned.). The Nets see him as a first round caliber player, perhaps even a lottery equivalent. If he is, then the Nets will consider the Croatian a steal.

However, the Nets are still waiting for Bogdanovic to come to America to play, and the more prolongs his arrival, the more anxious people get. They wanted him in 2012, but his European club, Fenerbahce wouldn't renegotiate his contract to include a buyout clause. They wanted him in 2013, but Fenerbahce wouldn't reduce his $2 million buyout.

At Eurobasket, Croatia's national team is trying to take his and other talents to the next level and make it deep into the tournament. They are a middle-of-the-road team trying to reach new heights with Bogdanovic pegged as the de facto leader. Bogdanovic feels differently, though, about that description. In an interview with Dimitris Kontos, of the Eurobasket website, Bogdanovic says, "We have a lot of good players, I don't think I am the leader of the team."

Maybe, but through four games, Bogdanovic is averaging 18.5 points --fifth highest in tournament, five rebounds and less than one assist while shooting 41% from the field. Croatia is 3-1, and he has easily been the Croatians' most consistent player, but there are still things that Bogdanovic needs to work on before he suits up for the Nets.

Watching the Croatia-Poland game Saturday morning, some things Bogdanovic did showed his potential, but other aspects of that still need development.  It's not surprising.

One play in the first quarter was particularly interesting. As Croatia was attempting to pull away from the Poles. Bogdanovic ran down a long rebound, starting the fast break. He then ran the floor and got the ball back for an easy layup and a chance to get one more point at the free throw line. Even though Bogdanovic has been critiqued for not being that athletic, he proved that he can run the floor and be an asset in transition.

Bogdanovic has also been cited for being a sub-par defender and not being quick enoughlaterally to keep up with the opposition, particularly if that opposition is in the NBA. In the game vs Poland, Bogdanovic wasn't a shutdown defender, but some things he did were impressive.. He did a fine job reading screens and reading his opponents hips. He kept his opposition in front of him and didn't slack off on defense. When he comes to the NBA, though, he needs to get quicker laterally because he'll be going against faster opponents.

Bogdanovic has a high basketball IQ, something that you can't teach and this should carry over when he takes the floor for the Nets.

Another positive aspect of Bogdanovic's play came during the third quarter, when he burned a Polish player on a backdoor cut and got fouled and hit both free throws. Bogdanovic has a high basketball IQ, something that you can't teach and this should carry over when he takes the floor for the Nets.

"Bogs" three-point shot wasn't there against Poland, and it hasn't been there for much of Eurobasket either. The forward is making an average of 28% of his shots from beyond the arc through the tournament, not good for a player known for his perimeter game. The only three he hit in the game vs. Poland was a stand-still, uncontested three, one that he had plenty of time to get prepared to take. He won't get that much time in the NBA, plain and simple.

However, the 6'8" forward is showing signs of development on his dribble-drive game. On the first play of the game vs. Poland, Bogdanovic took his defender off the dribble and beat him easily with a nice crossover. Although the shot was blocked by NBA center Marcin Gortat, the play showed that Bogdanovic is capable of getting by defenders with ease and can get to the basket.

Another play showcased Bogdanovic's big frame. In the fourth, in the midst of Poland's comeback, Bogdanovic kept his defender on his back and forced his way into the post for an easy lay up. His big body kept the smaller Polish defender behind him and didn't allow him to alter the shot.

Bogdanovic had 24 in the Croatians win against Poland, but it was against a team that featured only one NBA player, which is pretty typical of this year's tournament where a lot of NBA players stayed home or were recovering form injury. It's not the strongest field. No Andrei Kirilenko or Dirk Nowtizki this year.

Even though that was a game high, Bogdanovic didn't have the impact on offense one was expecting to see. He missed three three-pointers that were critical and while Poland was making a serious push, Croatia was looking for him every single time. but has Bogdanovic developed into a go-to guy a team can depend on every offensive possession?

With under a minute left, up three, Bogdanovic opted to take a step back three with a defender all over him. It didn't go in and it was an awful shot selection at any point in a game, let alone the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic does have a mature game, but late in tight games, he must be as crisp as ever in his thinking. His reputation is as a big shot player, one that's been thrust on him, but he's also been inconsistent in that role.

The Nets may have not given away much to get Bogdanovic, but two draft nights later, they did. The team gave way three first round picks, including one in the 2014 draft, a draft that is expected to challenge 2003 for the title of greatest draft ever.

The Nets are hoping that Bogdanovic can come to the states and  have a big impact to take away some of the pain from trading so many first round picks.In effect, if he's willing to come over this summer, he will be the Nets' 2014 pick.

Right now, no one on the Nets is "stressing" that Bogdanovic is staying overseas, as one league official tells NetsDaily. He was "Plan A" for the back-up small forward role, but "Plan B" became "Plan A+" as one Nets insider put it, when Kirilenko agreed to the mini-MLE. So the Nets have the luxury of letting him work on this game. His deep shooting is streaky. As the game vs. Poland shows, he has that gunner personality. If he misses, it's not going to affect his next shot. And while he's shooting 28 percent in Eurobasket, he shot 40 percent in the Euroleague and 38 percent in the Turkish League.

Mike Fratello, who coaches Ukraine, talked last season about that confidence Bogdanovic shares with other gunners.

"Bogdanovic is really a good scorer," he said, recalling the meeting between Ukaine and Croatia, at last summer's Eurobasket Qualifying Tournament. "We were up 79-77 with four seconds left. He has the ball, our guy is in right spot, has his hand in front of the ball and Bogdanovic cocks it back a little, shoots it a little higher, makes the three and we lose, 80-79. He is very confident, he gets to the foul line. Fans are going to be happy when he comes over."

Zach Lowe of Grantland has watched him this week and likes that he sees.

So what's the bottom line? He has no conscience with the ball in his hands, but he possesses a quick release  His defense is a work in progress, but his passing abilities are on point for a wing player, something that has become a lost art in the league for that position. Can he play shooting guard, which he claims is his NBA position?

There's also the issue of the transition from Europe to the NBA. It's been difficult for Mirza Teletovic and Bogdanovic is not as worldly as Teletovic. His English is not as good and he may not be as patient. The two players are different, even if they grew up in the same town, Mostar, in Bosnia.

Despite their problems with Bogdanovic's contract with Fenerbahce, the Nets still want him. Don't forget, they were going to pay him the full mini-MLE, $10 million over three years. One league source says the Nets' "still have high interest" in him. Another points out that he has a lot of the physical  tools an NBA player needs, like long arms, big hands and that big frame.

The first source, who has knowledge of the team's thinking, says that the Nets will try again next year to bring him over.  The team "hopes to bring him over as soon as possible," says the source. That will be dependent on whether he agrees to extend his deal with Fenerbache and if he does, what will his buyouts look like. He has to pay anything above $575,000.  He hasn't yet committed to joining the Nets next year, saying he will "certainly" join the Nets, but on occasion saying it might be "in a year or two."

Nets fans will get a chance to see Bogdanovic go up against top NBA talent in less than a month. On October 5, the Thunder will play Fenerbahce in Istanbul, part of the NBA Global Games.  It will be televised on NBA TV.  Last year, Bogdanovic scored 11 points in Fener's win over the Celtics. He was guarded by Paul Pierce.


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