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Player Review: Bojan Bogdanovic impacted with and was influenced by movement

Indiana’s starting small forward spaced the floor without being anchored to the corners.

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Original photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Bojan Bogdanovic was one of only twelve players this season to make 50 or more corner threes, but he didn’t settle for being a stationary floor spacer.

With 343 transition points, the Croatian sharpshooter outscored every player on Indiana’s roster other than Victor Oladipo (411). In addition to sprinting to the 3-point line and spotting-up before the defense could get set, he used a career-high 59 possessions as the transition ball-handler and routinely leveraged his left shoulder and left hip to shield the ball and gain advantage around his defender at the rim. On higher volume, he placed in the 88th percentile with 1.153 points per possession compared to the 43rd percentile with 0.872 points per possession the season prior.

All of the while he finished in the top-10 of the league in both off screen frequency (21.4%) and off screen scoring (220), further highlighting the way in which it was against his nature to stand and wait.

On both ends of the floor, the 29-year-old small forward either impacted with or was influenced by movement.

How did Bojan Bogdanovic impress?

Beyond averaging a career-high in minutes per game (30.8) while posting career marks in scoring (14.3), field goal percentage (47.4%), and three-point percentage (40.2%), his ability to read screens away from the ball generated calculated misdirection.

Take this nifty set from Indiana’s streak-snapping victory over the Cavaliers, for instance.

After Bogdanovic set a sort of decoy screen for Victor Oladipo to cut to the left corner, Kyle Korver’s focus got diverted just long enough to prevent him from recovering to his man behind the arc when Thaddeus Young picked the picker.

More fun were the occasions when he zigged when the defense expected him to zag.

Like when he would set up his man as if he were about to curl tightly around the screener and instead would make a quick back cut.

Or, better yet, when he would keep moving even when forced to regroup on the fly.

Here, with Anthony Davis ominously hanging back in the paint, the crafty swingman opted against using the rub screen set by Thaddeus Young on the elbow.

Instead, he sold the UCLA cut with a V-step before bouncing off of it like a flare and leaving his defender in the dust when he ran past Myles Turner’s hip, effectively freeing himself for an open three.

In addition to creating confusion with off-ball jitterbugging, the team tended to play well when he made shots — having gone 12-3 when he scored 20 or more points.

How did Bojan Bogdanovic disappoint?

Slotting his improved footwork and admirable effort against the opposing team’s top wing threat made it possible for Oladipo to roam, and the Croatian National Team star definitely had his moments — from making it tough on DeMar DeRozan early in the season to holding LeBron to 2-of-7 shooting when he was his primary defender in Game 3 while exploding for 30 points.

However, in general, he still lacks the lateral quickness necessary to be a shutdown defender when the ball stops moving and possessions grind to a halt.

Per Synergy, he surrendered 1.062 points per possession against isolation plays, a mark which ranked dead-last among the 27 players with at least 90 such possessions.

Unless he managed to dig the ball with his long arms and quick hands, he struggled to mirror his feet and chest to his man whenever he was left on an island.

He also had a tendency to get overwhelmed by explosive first-steps closing out in 1-on-1 situations.

The other downside to expecting him to man-up elite scorers was the fatigue factor on offense.

Outside of Game 3, LeBron shot above 50 percent from the field when defended by Bogdanovic. Worse, however, since — let’s face it — stopping the generational talent probably wasn’t a real option, was that the Croatian sharpshooter went 10-of-36 from three over those games.

An issue, given that Bogdanovic’s shooting was somewhat of a bellwether for the success of the team. During the regular season, he shot 45.5 percent from three in wins compared to 30.4 percent in losses.

What’s next for Bojan Bogdanovic?

With the option to shop his partially guaranteed contract to teams trying to shed salary ahead of draft night or gain cap space by waiving him, the Pacers need to carefully assess if the non-stationary floor spacing he provided during the regular season while respectably holding his head above water against some top-flight wing threats is sustainable in a starting role during the playoffs.

If an upgrade isn’t attainable this offseason, then holding onto him will allow the Pacers to maintain flexibility for next summer while retaining a shooter, who did more than stand and shoot, in the intermediary.

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