(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Despite running a fast-paced offense last season, the Suns oddly focused on drafting players who excel in the halfcourt last Thursday, among them 27th overall pick Bogdan Bogdanovic. The 22-year-old Serbian combo guard rose to prominence after a season-ending injury to teammate Leo Westermann midway through the year, which forced him into lead ball handling duties and allowed Bogdanovic to display intriguing pick-and-roll skills to go with his already known phenomenal set shooting. According to in-the-game.org, he ranked 13th in the Euroleague in shots created (defined by Simon Jatsch as unassisted field-goals made + assists). He also ranked in the top 25 in pure point ratio in the Adriatic league, per RealGM.com.
Bogdanovic is a good ball handler with nifty ball skills dribbling from side to side but still hasn’t been able to develop much of a crossover as a go-to move to help him create separation. His height was a tremendous asset to help him see over smaller point guards — which shouldn’t be the case in the NBA since he projects as a wing — but overall his passing on the move was impressive. 52 of his 84 assists in the Euroleague led to scores at the rim or from three-point range. However, as his team’s most capable shot creator for others, Bogdanovic often tried forcing assists into passing lanes that weren’t there and averaged 3.2 turnovers per 28 minutes.
He is not particularly fast attacking off the bounce but proved consistently able to get to the basket, averaging 3.5 shots at the rim per game. He was well coached at Partizan, as Bogdanovic dribbles the ball low, which is a must for taller players driving through traffic. His 200-pound frame also proved resilient as he was more often than not able to absorb contact and maintain his balance. Bogdanovic struggled badly to finish against any sort of length, though, which is significantly concerning as he looks to transition into the NBA. He converted just 43.2% of his 81 attempts at the rim in the Euroleague. If he can’t improve at the rim, these struggles will surely hurt his passing ability in the NBA as Bogdanovic will be unable to draw help and get someone open.
The versatility he showed this season helped boost his draft stock but Bogdanovic was on the radar in the first place due to his prolific shooting. He is a gunner, looking to put it up from any distance and from any spot of the court. His 37% accuracy on 135 three-point attempts in the Euroleague and 34% on 162 in the Adriatic league are a reflection of him doing most of his work on the ball last season. As he struggles to get much separation off the dribble, Bogdanovic is just a very average pull-up shooter at this point. He undoubtedly has potential to be one of the very best catch-and-shooters in the league, though. His release isn’t as quick as Nik Stauskas’, for example, but his shooting motion is very fluid and Bogdanovic had no problems getting his shot off against good contests.
Bogdanovic is not your typical European prospect who projects to struggles significantly on defense. He proved himself a good defender at the highest level of the European game when his effort was all there. Probably feeling the need to save his energy for offense, Bogdanovic wasn’t as attentive to the other end during a stretch almost at the mid-point of the year, just casually going through the motions, sloppily defending on the ball and blowing help assignments. But in the Serbian league finals, taking place a week before the draft, Bogdanovic was very engaged, fighting through screens and working hard to go around them all series long. He possesses good lateral mobility thanks to quick moving feet that permitted him to consistently stay in front of opponents. It is unclear whether his defensive ability will translate, though, as Bogdanovic has below average athleticism by NBA standards.
Although Bogdanovic has a similar skill-set to Goran Dragic’s (both are longer-than-average combo guards with nifty ball handling skills who can excel off the ball), the Slovenian star is a superior athlete and it’s difficult to envision the Serbian prospect developing into the transition player and finisher Dragic is at this point. Bogdanovic has enough skill to turn into a rotation player though, not only thanks to his shooting proficiency but also because his ability to run a pick-and-roll. In the Tom Thibodeau Era, where you need as many capable passers as you can to battle the strongside hybrid man-zone, this is a tremendous asset for an off-guard to possess.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.