SACRAMENTO -- The 2017-18 Sacramento Kings season is about development over wins and losses. Maybe more importantly, it’s about finding keepers amongst the team’s 10 young players on rookie deals.
Any time the Phoenix Suns roll through Sacramento, it is a reminder of the draft day deal from 2016 that sent Sacramento native Marquese Chriss to Phoenix for the draft rights to Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere and European prospect Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The jury is still out on the transaction. Chriss, like Labissiere has struggled in year two. He is starting and playing 20 minutes a night for Phoenix, but he’s putting up less than spectacular numbers.
Labissiere has been in and out of the Kings rotation as of late. Both his standard and per 36 minute performances dominate those of Chriss, although his minutes have been limited this season.
Papagiannis is an unknown for Sacramento. The 20-year-old 7-footer has played in just 54 minutes with the Kings, but he’s showing improvement with the Reno Bighorns and still considered a project.
While both teams wait for young players to develop, the Kings may have already won the deal. Bogdanovic, is a legitimate NBA player. He might be a lot more than that.
Over his last six games, the 25-year-old Serbian is averaging 12.7 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent from long range.
“He’s very confident in his game, he’s very comfortable out here on the court,” Vince Carter told NBC Sports California. “One thing I really enjoy and like about him, is what he doesn’t know, he asks questions, because he wants to be good, he wants to get better.”
One of the more versatile players on the Kings roster, Bogdanovic has started 13 of 31 games in his first season in the NBA. He’s played considerable time at both the shooting guard and small forward positions,
With De’Aaron Fox on the shelf, he’s seen time running the point as well. Against the Cavs, he posted a career-best eight assists and he’s just getting started.
“You can put him out there with anybody and he makes plays,” Carter added. “He works on his game and he really loves the game. For guys that love the game, they tend to put in a lot of work on their craft and he’s done that and reaping the benefits of it.”
That love for the game is rubbing off on others. Fellow wing Buddy Hield has raved about Bogdanovic as a mentor. Despite competing for minutes, Bogdanovic has worked with Hield on film study and approach to the game.
“It’s a selfish game,” Buddy Hield said on The Kings Insider Podcast. “It’s a selfish game - (the mentality is) I’m trying to get my own. But he’s been one of the few that really helped me to expand my game.”
From the moment he stepped on the floor during training camp, Bogdanovic has turned heads. Early word out of camp was that he might be the best player on the team coming into the season.
Zach Randolph has held down the fort while Bogdanovic learned the NBA game. Now he’s quietly carving out a niche as a jack-of-all-trades player for the Kings.
“It always takes a period of adjustment and for each guy it’s a little different who comes over from overseas,” Dave Joerger told NBC Sports California following shootaround on Friday. “The speed and the length is different in our league. I’ve been impressed. He’s picking it up, but he works at it.”
This isn’t Joerger’s first experience with a foreign-born player making an adjustment to the NBA game. While the transition can be painful at times, the European approach to the game can make a huge impact on a team.
“Impressed, but not surprised,” Dave Joerger said of Bogdanovic’ development. “I’ve been a big fan of his his for a long time. Having had a chance to work with Marc Gasol, they see the game the same way - from a purehearted, team-first approach all the time.”
Be it for the Serbian national team or suiting up for his club team, Bogi has had to fit in and take on new roles from a young age. He is adapting to the Kings roster and becoming one of Joerger’s go-to players in crunch time.
The Kings would like to see Bogdanovic shoot more. But he’s one of the better defenders on the club and he’s making his teammates better.
Sacramento invested heavily in the rookie, giving him a three-year, $27 million contract to lure him away from Fenerbahce of the Euroleague league. So far, it’s paying off. There’s no doubt, Bogdanovic is a keeper.