Two separate knee injuries, including one right before the start of training camp, set back Bogdan Bogdanovic and cost him his starting job last season. To his credit, Buddy Hield seized the opportunity, becoming the Kings’ leading scorer and solidifying himself as one of the franchise’s building blocks.
While his teammates were running extra wind sprints in preparation for the 2018-19 season, Bogdanovic was rehabbing and trying to get back on the court. He missed just 11 games due to the injury and played well initially, but he seemed to run out of gas in January and February when his numbers dipped considerably.
Not ready to give up international play, Bogdanovic starred for the Serbian national team at the FIBA World Cup up until Tuesday morning when they were eliminated in a stunning upset. While Bogdanovic is likely unhappy about the loss, it might be a good thing for the Sacramento Kings.
The World Cup finals are set for Sept. 15, just 13 days before the start of training camp in Sacramento. While it doesn’t seem like much, the extra five days of rest and recovery should help Bogdanovic get a break before jumping into camp.
Either way, the Kings will likely take it easy on the 26-year-old wing early in camp and through the preseason. He still needs to fly back to Sacramento from China and the team has a trip to India during the preseason as well. He’s put a lot of mileage on his body this summer and the Kings need him to play a vital role as their primary scorer off the bench this season.
Playmaker, scorer, jack-of-all-trades. Bogdanovic is Sacramento’s swiss army knife, although they’ve rarely seen him at 100 percent strength. He can play the point guard, shooting guard and small forward position and he can work as both a primary ball-handler or off the ball.
Bogdanovic was more aggressive in his sophomore season and it equated to an increase of 2.3 shots and .8 free throw attempts in virtually the identical amount of minutes to the year before. While he shot just 41.8 percent and saw his 3-point shooting dip from 39.2 percent as a rookie to 36 percent in year two, there is still a lot to like from the Kings’ sixth man.
A versatile scorer at all three levels, Bogdanovic keeps defenses off balance. He also has a flair for the dramatic and is one of the team’s better clutch players in the fourth quarter.
One of the best creators on the team, Bogdanovic posted the second-highest assist percentage out of the regulars, trailing only De’Aaron Fox. He also posted the team’s fifth-highest usage rate.
Bogdanovic worked well with rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles and the trio is likely to get stronger with more time together on the court. Bagley is set to move into the starting lineup, but Giles should have a major role alongside Bogdanovic with the second unit.
Like Fox and Hield, Bogdanovic held his opponent to below league average shooting behind the arc and outside of 15-feet. This group of guards is a big reason why the Kings held their opponents to 34.8 percent shooting from long range, which ranked 12th in the league last season.
Bogdanovic is a high basketball IQ player that always seems to be in the right place. He’s a catalyst for the second unit and the additions of Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes should each help increase his production on both ends of the court this season.
Bogdanovic isn’t exactly made for the uptempo style the Kings like to play. He’s better in the halfcourt and playing in defined playsets. It’s not always a bad thing, but there are times when it looks like four players are playing one style and the fifth is not.
Conditioning appeared to be an issue for Bogdanovic as the season wore on. Missing camp was a big deal and it was the second straight summer that international play had taken its toll. He’s coming off another long stretch with Serbia and escaped the tournament unscathed. He should be in good shape, but lowering his minutes early in the season might help preserve his legs for the post-All-Star break schedule.
Likely due to fatigue, Bogdanovic saw his shooting numbers take a substantial hit. He dropped three percentage points off his 3-point shooting and nearly three percent off his overall field goal percentage. He just 36.7 percent from 16-feet out and he took 477 of his 863 field goal attempts from this area.
Defensively, Bogdanovic can be a liability at times. The closer to the basket the ball gets, the worse off he is. Inside of 16 feet, the 6-foot-6 wing allowed opponents to shoot 6.7 percent above league average and that number jumped to +11.2 percent inside of six feet.
Path to Improvement
The Kings may have paved the way for Bogdanovic’s improvement with their summer additions. Joseph will likely take on the strongest offensive player when the two are paired in the backcourt. Both Dedmon and Holmes are better rim protectors behind him and Ariza is not only a quality veteran defender, but he’s a consistent threat from the corner.
Bogdanovic should get a full training camp to work into the action, which is not what he’s had in his first two seasons with the Kings. If he comes in with fresh legs and the right mindset, he has an opportunity to take another step forward in production.
He’ll get plenty of opportunities with the second unit, but he needs to find a way to be more efficient as a scorer. 36 percent from behind the arc isn’t bad, but if he can push that closer to 40 percent, he’ll be dangerous.
Like Hield, Bogdanovic took limited free throw attempts last season, averaging just 2.3 shots per game from the stripe. He’s too crafty of a player not to get to the line more.
With stronger veteran players around him, Bogdanovic should see an uptick in assists and his defensive deficiency can be better masked.
The Kings love the trio of Fox, Hield and Bogdanovic in the backcourt. They’ll play together in three-guard sets and they are mostly interchangeable. Saying that Luke Walton is also going to need to keep Joseph, Ariza and Harrison Barnes happy as well, making competition for minutes fierce.
Last season Bogdanovic averaged 27.8 minutes per game and it’s likely he’ll be in that same ballpark again. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be a better player.
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With a full training camp and a healthy set of knees, Bogdanovic could easily improve his shooting percentages slightly from last season and push his scoring average closer to 16 points per game. He could also see a slight improvement on his 3.8 assists per game he averaged last season due to the improvements around him on the roster.
Like Hield, Bogdanovic is in a contract year and has a lot riding on not only personal but team success. A conservative line has him averaging 15.5 points, 4.2 assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes per game as the primary scorer off the Kings’ bench.