European players are really like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're going to get.
But somehow, some way, the Brooklyn Nets are hoping the 2nd round pick they used for Bojan Bogdanovic in 2011 is more than just a box of chocolates, but rather a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
But at this point, they're still waiting on line to get into the chocolate factory.
They're waiting to see if Bogdanovic will just be an average starter in this league, or a special player waiting for a chance to prove his case to being the golden ticket of the many European players in the NBA.
There's many European players. But only a few are golden tickets.
Bogdanovic showed the potential of being a legitimate offensive force in this league, especially late in the season, and even more specifically, in the last game of the regular season. He went off for 28 points in a 101-88 must-win game for the Nets. It wasn't just the 28-point night that signified the importance of that game. It showed the type of big-game player Bogdanovic is -- and always has been -- dating back to his days in Europe.
His leadership traits are still evolving. This past summer, he really took the leadership role for Croatia in the 2015 EuroBasket tournament. He constantly filled the twitter airwaves with his excitement and optimism to bring a title to his home country. Problem is he got hurt and averaged a mere 10.8 points per game
He tweaked his ankle and suffered a concussion in the span of a week and still dressed to play after missing only two games. Whether it was a smart decision or not, it showed his passion, leadership and commitment to his colors. His internal numbers were dreadful. He shot 15.7 percent from beyond the arc and his shooting was just as bad before he had his concussion as it was after. As we know, he can go into deep shooting funks. Ultimately, he blamed himself for his team's performance, going so far as to apologize to the NATION.
Indeed, Bogie had a number of off games in the FIBA tournament. This is where questions loom and always have with Bogdanovic.
Can he stay consistent enough to be a big-time player in this league?
It goes back to his days with Fenerbahce Ulker, Bojan's former team from the Turkey league. We talked to Ismail Senol, a Turkish basketball writer, before Bogdanovic's rookie season with the Nets. When asked why Bogdanovic had struggled so much during his final season with Fener, Senol said, "He improved himself, but this wasn't his natural role, which explains his inconsistency."
Bogdanovic wasn't a role player in Europe. Nor was on the Croatian national team. It was quite the opposite Actually. Bogdanovic works best when he has the ball in his hands. He needs to be a focal part of the offense in order to show his capabilities ... as he did that last game of the season.
"In the beginning of the season I was a starter and played a lot of minutes, but then coach lost some confidence in me and I also lost confidence in myself so he put me on the bench," Bogdanovic told NetsDaily back in early February. A rookie player from overseas, that type of stuff really gets to you. Especially when you've been the focal point for most of your career.
Not to mention, he also had some adjustments to make in the NBA, noting that the ball is a different size, the three point line is further back, there were different offenses and defenses, etc. Still, the guy put up nine points per game. Not too shabby.
Indeed in the months since that February interview, Bogdanovic turned the page on his rookie season and turned up the heat. He showed signs of being comfortable and confident, jolting his numbers from 7.6 points per game on 41 percent shooting (pre All-Star), to 11.6 points per game on 51 percent shooting (post All-Star).
He capped off the second half of his season with a Rookie of the Month performance in April, averaging 14.4 points, shooting 52.6 percent overall and an astonishing 48.8 percent from deep. When few stepped up, Bogie did.
All this talk about Bogdanovic becoming more consistent and adapting to a role, what changes in his second season with the Nets?
We aren't psychic, but we're pretty sure that we're going to see a different Bojan Bogdanovic. A better, more motivated player with a chip on his shoulder. He said so himself, in August.
Writing on Facebook, he stated...
"I expect a whole new role, however not concerning the minutes spent on the court, but regarding ball allocation. I expect to have the ball more often in my possession, and thus a better season than the previous one."
His inconsistency should be gone next season. Lionel Hollins, Billy King, and even Mikhail Prokhorov have noted the bigger expectations for Bogdanovic this season. The Nets gutted most of their roster, getting younger and more defensive-minded in hopes that they'll be able to make some noise and stay durable enough through an 82-game season. And hopefully more.
With that being said, less star power means more touches for Bogie. They still have guys who need the ball in the starting lineup. Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are both guys who need the ball to make an impact.
However, with Johnson on the decline and in the final year of his exorbitant contract, look for the Nets to seriously make Bogdanovic the second option on the offensive end. Johnson is their present (which is even pushing it considering they can dump him at the trade deadline).
Bogdanovic is their future.
And in order for them to throw out that old box of chocolates and enter the gates of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, they'll have to give Bojan Bogdanovic the ball. Whatever happens inside the factory (or for the rest of the season) is in the hands of the man who may want it the most.