With 2:33 remaining in the third term of last Sunday’s contest with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bojan Bogdanovic found himself in a familiar position. The Detroit Pistons forward was guarded chest-to-chest above the three-point line by the opponent’s most reliable defender. This time it was Lakers veteran Patrick Beverly.
Up to this moment, the Croatian sharpshooter had lit up the Lakers for 31 points total, including 22 in the first 8 minutes of the third period.
As Cory Joseph received the ball at the top of the arc, the savvy Bogdanovic briefly tip-toed inside the arc before planting his right leg and darting back behind the three-point line, freeing himself of the pesky Beverly on his way to receiving the pass and draining what would be his 5th consecutive three-point make of the quarter.
This possession provided a microcosm of the extreme efficiency Bogdanovic has displayed during his time with Detroit. Everything he does entails minimal fuss and often leads to optimal results. The aforementioned jab and cut is one of the many veteran moves the eight-year pro has used to free himself for high-quality looks on a nightly basis.
His season-high 38-point performance against the Lakers on Sunday night capped what has been a scintillating start to Bogdanovic’s Pistons tenure.
Through 29 games, he’s averaging career highs in points per game (21.1), field goal percentage (50.4%) and three-point percentage (43.2%). While many expected the sweet-shooting European to knock down a high percentage of outside shots, potentially only Bogdanovic loyalists could foresee the dynamic manner in which he is scoring.
Scoring off the bounce
When you first look at Bogdanovic you see a tall, mid-30s going on 50, partially balding European with as close to what could qualify as a “dad bod” by the NBA’s extremely lofty physical standards.
If I were to tell you he’s one of the NBA’s best outside shooters, you’d instantly believe me.
If I were to tell you he’s the 7th best isolation scorer in the NBA, you’d probably call me a liar—and I wouldn’t blame you for such an assumption.
However, according to NBA.com, Bogdanovic currently ranks 7th in the league for points per isolation possession. He’s shooting 57.1% on self created looks, a number percentage which places him above the likes of the league’s best in DeMar DeRozan (51.6%) and Donovan Mitchell (48.6%).
Bogdanovic’s shooting gravity is the 33-year-old’s pathway to creating high-quality open looks off the bounce:
In the above clip, Bogdanovic’s shooting gravity allows him to drive-by a pair of Heat defenders for an easy 12-foot jumper. After dipping too low into the paint, Tyler Herro panics with a hard close-out to Bogdanovic in the corner. Bogdanovic breezes by Herro with a pump-fake and then uses a slow left-to-right crossover to shake Max Struss—who presumably thought Bogi was about to launch a baseline jumper—before finishing with the pull-up jumper.
On the flip-side, Bogdanovic’s 48.6% shooting on pull-up jumpers has provided him with additional room to attack the rim:
In this instance, Aaron Gordon stays attached to Bogdanovic’s left hip in anticipation of a step-back or pull-up attempt. By staying alongside Bogi, Gordon can provide a decent contest in the event Bogdanovic comes to a sudden halt. However, the crafty Croatian recognises this and cruises to the basket for an easy two.
He’s created a number of easy opportunities at the basket with such attempts which has lead to a career-high finishing rate of 72% of attempts within 6-feet of the rim, per Cleaning the Glass.
At this stage of his career, Bogdanovic is a master at creating scoring opportunities with his ability to read and react to defenders guarding him. His scoring off the bounce has been one of the rare bright-spots amidst a mostly dismal season in Detroit.
Scoring via ball-screen actions
Now this is the part of his game Bogdanovic is more commonly known for—shooting long-range bombs via off-ball actions.
While this aspect of Bogdanovic’s attack has been a strength for the entirety of his career, a player with such shooting prowess is not something Piston fans have had the privilege of calling their own in at least the past decade.
In recent years, the likes of Wayne Ellington (SRV) and Luke Kennard have rivaled Bogdanovic’s efficiency from beyond the arc. However the sheer volume Bogdanovic couples with the high percentages separates him from the shooters of Pistons past.
Scoring Involving Screen Actions
|PnR Ball Handler||47.1%||53rd||Good|
|PnR Roll Man||66.7%||96th||Excellent|
The above table illustrates exactly how effective the 33-year-old has been as both a screener (PnR Roll Man) and when darting off off-ball screens.
A staple of Dwane Casey offenses during his tenure with Detroit has been to utilize his shooting wings as a screener in the pick-and-roll. Third-year forward Saddiq Bey was heavily featured in such a roll last season. While this isn’t the most dynamic of plays (it’s incredibly simple really), a scorer like Bogdanovic can use screen setting to generate a ton of advantages:
In the above film, Bogdanovic sets the screen for Joseph in anticipation of the defensive switch where he can draw the smaller defender in Clarkson. From here, Bogdanovic rises up over the shorter Clarkson and drains the 19-foot fadeaway, a shot he’s converting at a 44% clip.
While he’s not the most fleet off foot, watching Bogdanovic fly off a corner pin-down screen is a thing of beauty:
He’s shooting an absurd 53.8% on three point tries which are launched via an off-ball screen—theres not much more to say than the guy is a ridiculous shooter off the catch.
When the addition of Bogdanovic was first reported I, like everybody, immediately began focusing solely on the veteran’s potential on-court impact.
But Bogdanovic’s influence in the locker room as a mentor to such a young team cannot be overstated. At first, with the wing scorer in a contract year and also coming off three straight post season appearances, it felt like Detroit would be a quick pit stop (it still could be) for Bogi to strut his scoring potential before finding a new home. Is a veteran coming from so much success in Utah really going to have time to invest in the development of a bunch of early 20-year-olds going through growing pains?
Well, through only 29 games the core of Detroit’s future hasn’t been shy with complimenting their veteran teammate.
Cade Cunningham said earlier this season. “He shares his knowledge. He doesn’t keep it to himself”.
Isaiah Stewart also stated; “He’s one of the smartest basketball players I’ve ever played with”.
Bogdanovic: “We’re close. It’s always better to win than lose, to grow, but playing these close games shows that we are progressing, we are getting better.”
— James L. Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) December 12, 2022
While it’s still entirely possible Bogdanovic is shipped to a playoff hopefully prior to this years trade deadline, it’s clear the 33 year-old marksman has had a profound effect on the organisation.