The Nets may have traded away most of their future cap space and draft picks to obtain KG and “The Truth”, but they sneakily held on to one of their aces, Bojan Bogdanovic, a Croatian star who may just be the answer to how the Nets will transition into the post-KG era.
After a horrid 11-20 start, the Nets have managed to turn things around since New Year’s, and have started to find some sort of identity as a team. After trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce this past summer, the Nets left themselves with very little in the way of draft picks and cap space over the next few years. With KG, Pierce and Joe Johnson not getting any younger, the Nets will need to be crafty to have a shot at contending without breaking up their core.
Enter Bojan Bogdanovic, one of the most explosive scorers in Europe, whose rights the Nets have retained since he was the 31st pick of the 2011 draft. Playing for Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Bogdanovic is a 6’8” small forward, who can flat out get buckets. While most European players are stereotyped as shooters, Bogdanovic is excellent at taking it to the rack, where he excels as a finisher. While current Net, Mirza Teletovic, was more of a spot-up shooting go-to guy in Europe, Bogdanovic does most of his damage off the dribble, and will likely have an easier adjustment to the NBA than most Europeans.
The thing that makes Bogdanovic special is his versatility offensively. His outside shot is above average, mainly due to his overall confidence in his ability. He is very effective posting up guards on switches, and overall has a knack for finding a way to exploit a defense’s weaknesses. Getting the opportunity to play one or two years with Paul Pierce, one of the best flat out scorers of this generation, Bogdanovic would be in a great situation to learn the nooks and crannies of being a scorer in the NBA. More importantly, his production can soften the blow of the eventual loss or decline of Pierce and Joe Johnson.
Defensively, Bogdanovic does not stand out. His lateral quickness is below average, and he will most likely not be able to guard the top penetrating guards in the NBA and consistently stay in front. However, since playing for coach Obradovic (see below), he has shown more consistent focus and effort on the defensive side of the floor, and is able to hide his weaknesses by staying on the same page with his teammates on defense. While his ability to stop penetration will prevent him from being a lockdown defender, on a good defensive team he can make an impact (or at least not be a liability) with competitiveness and effort.
Bogdanovic is currently playing for former Serbian coach, Zeljko Obradovic, an 8-time Euroleague champion, and one of the most demanding coaches worldwide. Obradovic is probably the closest thing you will find to Larry Brown in Europe, putting a strong emphasis on playing the right way, and giving everything of yourself for the team. Coach Obradovic will not hesitate to bench a player for making a “basketball IQ” type of mistake, and his star players are held just as accountable. After playing for Obradovic, Bogdanovic should have no issue fitting into a veteran-laden Nets squad, and making the foul needed to stop a transition basket, or diving onto the floor for a loose ball.
The Nets were not able to bring Bogdanovic on board this past summer, despite offering him a 3-year, $10 million contract, due to a massive buyout in his contract with Fenerbahce, reportedly set at over $2 million. However, Bogdanovic has publicly expressed his desire to play for the Nets, and whether it is the summer of 2014 or 2015, he will be suiting up stateside in the near future.
While the 2014 draft class is set to be very strong, Bogdanovic would be one of the strongest rookies in the league next year, after a wealth of experience in the Euroleague, Spanish ACB league, Adriatic League, and the Turkish TBL. While he is still relatively young, being born in 1989, this is no typical rookie. He will go through the inevitable transition period, as there is for any rookie, especially from Europe, but this kid can flat out play at the highest level, and he should prove to be one of the big steals of the 2011 draft.
Bogdanovic may not be able to fix Brook Lopez’s foot, or find a solution to the Nets’ atrocious cap situation, but he certainly can bring some much needed youth and bench scoring to a team that is currently defaulting on the mortgage they took out this past summer.