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Bojan Bogdanovic is thriving under ‘new’ Brooklyn Nets

NBA: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Bojan Bogdanovic is playing pretty darn well this season but he’s flying a bit under the radar.

Well, some pundits are noticing...

Indeed, Bogdanovic has a new swagger to him - a swagger that seemed to start over the summer when he torched teams in the Olympic Qualifiers and then Olympic games in Brazil.

Actually, though, it can be argued that the swagger started last spring, a carryover from the end of the NBA season last year when Joe Johnson left the Nets picture.

Either way, with a new head coach in Kenny Atkinson, Bogdanovic has thrived in his role with Brooklyn. .

Here are his numbers this year vs. last year afer Joe Johnson was bought out.

The numbers are pretty consistent. Although everyone expected somewhat of a spike in his minutes, Bogdanovic has started in all 22 games this season. He started 39 games last year, 22 coming when Johnson headed for Miami. So that’s 44 straight starts without missing a game. No Net has been that durable

You can attribute this to a number of things. Johnson being gone, a new head coach and a new offensive system, all which have led to more confidence and consistency in Bogdanovic’s play.

Bogdanovic has stated several times in his career that confidence is an issue. Lionel Hollins would insert him in the starting lineup, and then take him out if he had a few off games. He still played decent, averaging nine points in his rookie season and 11.2 points in his second year. Now, in his third year, he’s averaging 15.2 points on 46 percent shooting. If he has an off game, he isn’t pulled from the lineup nor tossed into the doghouse.

Things change when you have the right people surrounding you. Especially as a player arriving in the NBA from Europe, feeling confident and comfortable is key to playing your game ... and well.

"We've got to make it where he enjoys coming in the gym... We're not going to criticize him for every mistake he makes," Kenny Atkinson said of Anthony Bennett at the introductory press conference on July 22. "He's a guy we've got to build up his confidence, and if he misses two straight corner 3s, take the next one."

Atkinson may have been talking about Bennett, but the statement rings true for all the players on the roster. It’s the culture change: a positive attitude that fuels and sustains confidence and consistency.

Bogdanovic’s glaring weakness in his first two seasons (other than his defense) was his inconsistency. He would impress with a 20-point performance, maybe two or three, and then have a sudden drop-off the next couple of games. That hasn’t happened this season. Bogie’s scored in double figures 18 of 22 games. He’s proving himself as a legitimate weapon in Atkinson’s motion offense.

Take the last five games, Bogdanovic has averaged 18.8 points on 49 percent shooting, including 39 percent from 3-point. He’s not just standing on the perimeter and waiting for the ball to come to him as he did his first two seasons in the NBA. Instead, he’s moving without the ball, cutting and slashing across the paint and backdoor, shifting along the perimeter and running out on fastbreaks when the opportunity presents itself.

He’s breaking a sweat.

Beyond an increase in confidence —some might say swagger— there’s a big difference between Hollins’ iso-heavy offense and Atkinson’s fast-paced motion offense.

Atkinson’s offense is supposed to set him and others up for easy shots. Thus far, Bogdanovic is thriving as the second scoring option behind Brook Lopez. Both have played without a veteran point guard for 17 games. Jeremy Lin is set to return as early as Monday and that should help everyone.

Bogdanovic should get even better looks as Lin penetrates and creates opportunities for those around him. Bogie hasn’t had much of that since coming to Brooklyn in 2014.

The Nets think very highly of Bogdanovic. Assistant coach Chris Fleming visited Bogdanovic in Croatia during the offseason to impart some advice, work with him on his game. It was a clear indication that Bogie was part of the Nets plan.

They will be faced with a decision on the 6’8” Croatian at the trade deadline or in the off-season. As his play improves, so does his value. If he continues to play at this pace, Sean Marks will have to decide whether he should trade Bogdanovic. It’s hard to imagine they won’t get offers. Would a first round pick tempt Marks?

Then, if he’s still a Net come July, Marks et al will face another decision, whether to sign him to a contract that could start in the low eight figures.

Bogdanovic must see the kind of money that’s being offered around the league. He also must understand this is likely his big opportunity to cash in. After all, he turns 28 in April. The Nets of course can offer him more ... if they see him as a building block.

Bogie seems happy in the big city and the Nets seem happy with him. Remember, it was Bogdanovic who dismissed ESPN’s dire projections in the off-season, expressed confidence in the team’s future just as the team expressed confidence in him. It’s one big cycle.