We all swear that the hot hand thing is real. Though statistics try to dilute the idea of it, we swear it’s all true. When watching Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic this season, it’s hard to question the almost supernatural occurrence. Don’t ask questions, just give the man the ball.
Bogdanovic is coming off what I’ll declare as his best game as a member of the Indiana Pacers in a 92-89 nail-biter against division rivals in the Milwaukee Bucks. He put up a game high 29 points on five three-pointers and 9-13 overall from the floor. Most importantly, he wrestled (quite literally) down a jump ball in the waning seconds of the game and drew a foul. His outburst could not have come on a better night than Monday, as All-Star Victor Oladipo looked to be running on empty from a yeoman’s effort the night before against the Wizards.
Bogey is no doubt an instrumental piece of the Pacers success this season, as they are sitting nicely in fourth in the Eastern Conference standings at 37-27. He currently averages 14.3 points per game which, if holds, would be a new career high for him (13.7 in 2016-2017 for Brooklyn/Washington). Though fans that have watched consistently know that the unconscious shooting has come in seemingly monthly spurts throughout the season.
Bogdanovic By the Month
The Gold Standard that Bogdanovic has been compared to this season was his month of November. I believe a lot of fans remember this month in particular because the Pacers themselves started to put it together and began to look like a threat. That being said, since the end of a dreadful January for him, Bogey has been playing his best basketball over the last 12 games.
To be honest, I could write an entire article over how this entire team is underappreciated. Bogey has won the Pacers a couple games this season (4.4 Win share total), but a lack of consistency night in and night out are concerning. There are a few holes in his game that could use shoring up.
1. He has no mid-range tendancies
Bogdanovic is a pure jump shooter...how? He takes a whopping 46.2 percent of his shots from downtown, which is not a surprise. Within the arc, however, he takes over a fourth of his total shots within three feet of the basket at 26.4 percent. That is about average, but his other close range attempts (less than ten feet) are elevated at 11.6 percent. This leaves only 15.8 percent of his shots between ten feet in the free throw line. This could very well be the result of floor spacing and his role on the team, unfortunately it can lead to predictability in scouting.
2. His ball-handing
Bojan’s 10.1 TOV% (percentage of turnovers per 100 possessions) aren’t the highest on the team, but he’s also not the primary ball-handler. For example, Victor Oladipo’s is around 12 percent. He does seem a bit vulnerable to being trapped at times (i.e. Celtics loss at home). Decision-making and ball-handling could be cleaner.
3. Consistency on Defense
This one I gave the old eye-ball test. It’s not a secret that he isn’t the fastest player on the floor and teams switch to take advantage of that. What he could improve on comes from initial positioning, as he tends to crowd the ball during his on-ball defense. Once he’s on his heels he’s liable to get torched.
What does he do well?
Many things, in fact. His offensive presence is tough to cover when he is on. Luckily for the Pacers, he’s on enough to where he keeps defenses honest. Any night for him could be the night.
1. Catch and Shoot
Bogdanovic replaced the Pacers former three-point threat in C.J. Miles after they elected to let the latter walk last off-season. He was fulfilled the role of the catch-and-shoot three guy for the team, as 96.7 percent of his threes are assisted. This is a remarkably high number with all things considered in the up-tempo style of today’s NBA. To compare, Oladipo’s assisted percentage is 56.9 percent on threes while Golden State’s Steph Curry is at 62.1 percent. Bojan doesn’t create his own threes, he takes the opportunities his teammates create for him. He’s getting open and he’s doing it often.
2. Floor Spacing on Offense
With his catch-and-shoot style, Bogdanovic has carved himself a niche in the spacing of the Pacers starting lineup. He takes nearly 30 percent of his threes from the corners, converting at 46 percent this season. Oladipo has taken less than ten percent of his threes from the corner. His spacing and effectiveness from the corner allows for the classic drive and kick gameplan. This also allows Pacers bigs like Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to find a quick outlet after an offensive board. This is an important piece to the team’s second-chance opportunities.
3. True Shooting Percentage
Bogdanovic currently holds the highest true shooting percentage on the team at 61.1 percent. In a season where Darren Collison (60.8 percent) has been flirting with a 50-40-90 line, this is actually quite impressive. Essentially, the stat shows the player’s shooting percentage when free throws are considered as well. Every time the ball leaves his hand, regardless of where, he’s averaging success at 61.1 percent.
Bogdanovic has been a pleasant surprise for the Pacers thus far, as have the Pacers themselves. He has been a roller coaster thus far, but as of late, has rewarded the Pacers for sticking with him through the rough weeks. If the Pacers want to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs they are going to need “Vatra” (fire in Croatian) to stay scorching.