When the Nets drafted Bojan Bogdanovic with the 31st pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, they thought they were getting a Peja Stojakovic-type of player. In other words, Bogdanovic was relegated to merely being a three-point specialist.
Danko Cvjeticanin, the Nets international scouting director, called him a "combination" of Stojakovic and another three-point specialist, Carlos Delfino
Over the last three seasons in the Euroleague and FIBA play, Bogdanovic has developed a more multi-faceted game. His game, as it turns out, strongly resembles that of Paul Pierce.
Shortly after the 2011 draft, and clearly before the Pierce/Garnett trade, Bogdanovic was already being compared to Pierce. Justin Defeo of Nets are Scorching, now The Brooklyn Game, wrote in June of 2011 of their similarities…
"With neither Pierce nor Bogdanovic being athletic freaks (by today’s standards), they each rely slightly more on craft than raw athleticism on forays to the hoops."
He even posted a video comparing their games at the time. Then it looked uncanny. Now, after watching Bogdanovic in the World Cup, it looks downright prophetic.
It’s no secret that Pierce was never the greatest athlete on the court. Without that elite athleticism, Pierce relied upon his post game, step-back jumpers, pump fakes and jabs to get buckets, not to mention those groan-enhanced trips to the line.
As the video --and his recent play in the FIBA World Cup-- shows, Bogdanovic, like Pierce, uses pump fakes to get to the basket as opposed to relying on sheer athleticism. And like Pierce, he gets to the line, as exhibited by his 17 free throws vs. Puerto Rico Thursday. In the FIBA World Cup so far, Bogdanovic has gone to the line on average eight times a game. Pierce, in his career, has gone to the line seven times per.
Both Bogdanovic and Pierce are big for their position: Bogdanovic is listed at 6’8" 216 pounds but may be a bit bigger while Pierce is around the same height but a more brawny 235 lbs. In an NBA that employs increasingly smaller lineups, Bogdanovic should be able to use his size against slighter small forwards who are likely to guard him.
Where Bogdanovic reigns supreme over Pierce is three-point shooting. No doubt Pierce can consistently make mid-range and three-point shots, but Bogdanovic seems to be a better, even pure shooter. Bogdanovic shot at a 41 percent and percent clip from behind the arc in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Euroleague seasons, respectively. He's fallen off a bit in the preliminary round at the World Cup, but he's still a threat shooting at 34.5 percent in the first five games.
The decision to let Pierce walk and stick with Bogdanovic is consistent with Brooklyn’s recent "youth movement." The Nets did not want to offer an aging Pierce, who they believe can no longer guard the small forward position, two years at $10 million. Head coach Lionel Hollins likes to employ two traditional big men in his lineup, which would have left Pierce out of the power forward position, where he played the majority last season. Also, if the Nets kept Pierce at the 4, it would take minutes away from the other candidates at power forward: Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee, and, indirectly, Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev who can play the 3.
The Nets also believe that Pierce is not the big game player he was with Boston. They believe it wasn’t until mid-season that he made a significant impact and even then, he produced pedestrian numbers. Brooklyn prefers developing their younger players, like Bogdanovic, rather than taking minutes away from them for someone who they believe is merely at this point, despite his great intangibles, average.
Hollins now has the choice of starting either Kevin Garnett or Plumlee at power forward and filling in the small forward spot with either Bogdanovic or Andrei Kirilenko. Teletovic also could be in the mix for both positions.
The Nets feel Bogdanovic’s offensive game is NBA ready and his defense, while still a work in process, is improving. With this in mind, it is not impossible that Bogdanovic could crack the starting rotation. Hollins has suggested the starting lineup is still an open race. Regarding Bogdanovic, Hollins told Mike Mazzeo he doesn’t view Bogdanovic as a one-dimensional, Stojakovic-esque player.
"I think he’s got great size, he’s also got great speed and quickness. He can shoot the ball, but also put the ball on the floor. He can post up. I’m looking for players. Players that have multiple skills and are not just one-dimensional."
As for Bogdanovic, he believes he is more well-rounded than previously believed and has said the Nets are "counting on me."
"Neven Spahija began using me in the low post when he was coach at Fenerbache (in 2011), that I used my body well. Then, Jasmin Repesa did the same thing in the national team," he told Vecernji, a Croatian newspaper. He also said Spahija’s replacement, Zeljko Obradovic, "asked the team to play a lot of pick-and-roll and he pushed me also. That’s why I’ve played more with the ball last season."
No one is saying Bogdanovic is going to replace Pierce. That would be sacrilegious. He's not bringing that championship mettle, that leadership. And there will be a transition. But he could be the next best thing, a player with the same game who could grow rather than grow old.