Bogdan Bogdanovic is struggling. It’s not a new issue, but it’s something the Kings need to address.
After missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery, Bogdanovic came out hot the first two months of the season and looked like the next Manu Ginobili coming off Sacramento's bench.
Kings coach Dave Joerger has used his jack-of-all-trades all over the court, both as a starter and a reserve and at multiple positions. Lately, he’s been asked to start at small forward, and it’s not going completely as planned for the Serbian-born wing.
The current starting lineup of Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 14.8 minutes per game together on the floor. Over that stretch, they are running a minus-1.1 in the plus/minus category as a five-man rotation.
It’s a small sample size, but at least one red flag pops up. Sacramento is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, but with this lineup, the team is shooting just 30.2 percent from behind the arc.
An alternative starting group that might get some traction looks slightly different in the stat logs. The grouping of Fox, Hield, Barnes, Bjelica and Cauley-Stein runs a plus-0.9 in 8.4 minutes over eight games.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. The first group with Bogdanovic starting is guaranteed to go against the opposition’s starting unit for at least part of the game. That isn’t always the case for the five including Bjelica.
The quick glance says Barnes and Bogdanovic haven’t figured out how to play together yet. They run a minus-4.0 as a tandem in 21.5 minutes per game since Barnes joined the team last month at the NBA trade deadline.
With the Kings in the middle of a playoff chase, the easy answer is to try something different. Then again, the sample size isn’t large enough to truly tell anything definitively. One really good stint together easily could swing these numbers a different direction.
Starter or reserve
A look into Bogdanovic’s splits shows that he’s a more effective player coming off the bench. In 17 starts, he’s posting 13.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 31.2 minutes per game. Playing with the first team, he’s shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3-point range.
As a first option leading the reserves, Bogdanovic sees a clear improvement as a scorer, although his assist and rebounding numbers dip. In 37 games off the bench, Bogdanovic averages 15 points, 3.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game.
While his overall shooting percentage improves to 43.4 percent as a reserve, his 3-point percentage dips to 33.5 percent.
Outside of the standard numbers, Bogdanovic is a plus-2.4 in the plus/minus category as a starter and a minus-8.4 as a reserve. His offensive rating increases with the second unit and his defensive rating drops.
Sacramento is just 5-12 with Bogdanovic as a starter this season, including 2-4 since the team’s roster shakeup at the deadline. While it isn’t all on the second-year guard, it shows there might be an issue with fit in the first group.
Regardless of starting or coming off the bench, Bogdanovic is struggling. The 26-year-old saw his shooting percentages plummet since the new calendar year.
After shooting well in November and December, Bogdanovic hit 41.6 percent from the field in January and 39.8 percent in February, and in five games so far in March, he’s shooting just 31.4 percent.
His 3-point shooting is a major culprit for the drop in percentage. Bogdanovic is shooting just 31.7 percent from deep since Jan. 1, although he’s bounced back so far in March, hitting 38.5 percent over the last five games.
Maybe Bogdanovic needs a night off. Maybe he needs a change in roles. There is no question he is a valuable member of the team, and the Kings are better when he is playing to his potential.
With the Kings still fighting down the stretch, Joerger continues to shrink his rotation. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Bogdanovic is averaging a season-high 30.8 minutes per game in March.
Sacramento needs Bogdanovic to return to his early season form, regardless of roles. Giving him the chance to succeed might mean moving him to the bench.