In what's been an up-and-down season for the Croatian rookie, Bojan Bogdanovic may have finally found his niche with the Brooklyn Nets.
The frustratingly inconsistent play of Bogdanovic has been no secret. After a decent start to his rookie campaign, Bogdanovic hit a road block in December and ended up in Lionel Hollins' doghouse as he was replaced in the rotation by Sergey Karasev. Not so good for someone who was being compared to Paul Pierce in the offseason.
What was particularly jarring was his home/road splits. As I chronicled at the start of the new year, Bogdanovic shot 48.8% from the field in 16 home games, but only 29.9% in 15 road games. He also averaged merely 5.8 shots per game on the road compared to 7.9 spots per game in Brooklyn. Bogdanovic was significantly less efficient and less aggressive on the road.
As the Nets enter the home stretch and continue to fight for the final playoff spots, the tide seems to be changing for Bogdanovic. It started on January 10 when the Nets faced off against the Pistons and Bogdanovic had just recently found his way back into Hollins' rotation. In 27 minutes, he scored 14 points on 5-11 shooting, and what was most significant was this game occurred on the road. Since that game, Bogdanovic is shooting 40.7% from the field on 6.8 attempts per game in 12 road games. In nine home games, he's shot 46% on 7.7% shots per game. That's still a notable split efficiency wise, but Bogdanovic is starting to bridge the gap, and his aggressiveness on the road matches his assertiveness at home.
He still hasn't reached his potential from beyond the arc, shooting 34.5% from three in February, but he's getting there. Instead of sticking with what's not working, Bogdanovic has impressed within the three-point line.
Take for example a February 20 game against the Lakers, perhaps Bogdanovic's best performance in the NBA. He scored 18 points on 7-13 shooting in 37 minutes. In a game that was played 2,782 miles from Barclays Center, Bogdanovic asserted himself early by receiving a pass from Deron Williams, driving into the paint and dunking in the face of the 7'0" Robert Sacre:
Like many European players, Bodganovic's basketball IQ is high and he's been able to show it with his increased aggressiveness. Here, he moves effectively without the ball by cutting to the basket and receiving the pass from Williams for the easy bucket:
Bogdanovic's BBIQ isn't simply limited to cuts to the basket. He seems to have a knack to find the pocket in the defense and slide into that opening. Against Detroit, Bogdanovic patiently waits just outside the paint and as Kevin Garnett receives the pass and a subsequent double team, the Croatian moves under the basket and gets in position for the pass:
Considering the Pierce comparisons, Bogdanovic is starting to live up to the hype. Sure, he's nowhere near the player Pierce was in his prime, but his game is beginning to show similarities. Like Pierce, he's not the most athletic player on the court, but will beat his defender with his smarts and craftiness. Against the Lakers, Bogdanovic uses a slick ball fake to get past the defender and finishes strongly at the basket, very Pierce-like:
Again, what's important is this aggressive play is starting to find its way onto road trips. In December, Bogdanovic seemed hesitant and roamed around the perimeter waiting to catch and shoot, and that was especially prevalent on the road. Now, he's spending less time waiting on the outside for a pass and more time moving without the ball and creating his own shot.
What's also worth noting, and previously mentioned by Net Income, is with Bogdanovic's improved play and the emergence of Markel Brown, Karasev is glued to the bench. Since Bogdanovic's resurgence in Detroit, Karasev has sat out 14 games and the most he's played is 18 minutes in a blowout loss against the Utah Jazz on January 24. Brooklyn can only hope Karasev experiences the same resurgence that Bogdanovic is currently going through.