The trip to the NIJT in Belgrade was a good opportunity as well to get an update on the Partizan prospects as they played a Euroleague game just the day before the Youth Event. The article will focus on Bogdan Bogdanovic who has played himself into the first round of NBA Draft projections this season.
Over the last years, Bogdan Bogdanovic was a prospect that was not followed that much by most of the scouts. He always showed interesting skills but this was mainly as a forward being used as a scorer. This season, his role has changed dramatically within the Partizan Belgrade squad, especially after the injury of Leo Westermann. Bogdanovic was forced to take over the PG job as a starter and has accumulated multiple minutes on the highest level playing against the best PGs in Europe. He averages around 35 minutes per game since mid-November combined in the Euroleague and the Adriatic League. On the one hand, this is great for him getting experience and handling the ball most of the time. On the other hand, playing that many minutes with high intensity is quite a risk concerning injuries and knowing of the track record of ACLs and similar problems at Partizan, this might be an issue.
In the game I could follow last week in the Euroleague, Bogdanovic took over the lead of his team right from the start. The first Partizan points were all either scored or prepared by him. Hard drives to the hoop, keeping the ball like a rugby player close to his body, three point shots or good passes in transition helped Partizan to create an early lead. When he has an open opportunity, his shot looks very good. He knocks down the three pointer in transition when getting the ball in catch-and-shoot situations but he can also create his own shot in Pick and Roll action. However, after this initial fireworks, the 1992 born Serbian calmed down a bit as he was better defended by the Galatasaray players. During this phase, he had a couple of nice passes but also turned it over or not seeing the totally open man in the paint. You could recognize that he has not yet the experience to play PG for a long time as he was often more in his scoring role than the distribution.
Once Galatasaray put long-armed Sinan Güler on him on defense, Bogdanovic was totally shut down and the whole Partizan game collapsed. He struggled to create anything good for himself or his team mates. Additionally, you did not really have the feeling that he is a real leader with some vocal presence asking for the ball and wanting to make the big plays. This is another part where you expect him to get better as far as the season goes on and he is more familiar with his role as PG.
In the second half, Bogdanovic came back with some good scoring moments. He added another pull-up jumper from behind the arc and showed that he can also split the Hedge Defense on Pick and Roll situations to finish from mid-range with the floater. However, every time when Partizan came close to tie the gap, the whole team offense collapsed as everybody was expecting Bogdanovic to deliver a big play. It has to be said that Partizan was unable to create a good team play situation and was more based on individual efforts of their players. Bogdanovic was able to add some points to his stat line but these never came when the team needed them the most to come back into the game definitely.
On the defensive end, Bogdanovic was not really a factor. What has to be noted is that Galatasaray went for their two first plays directly at him, either because they wanted to use defensive weaknesses or wanted to get him in foul trouble early. In the first play, he got posted up by his opponent but he managed to not get scored on despite being overplayed in the low post. The second play of Galatasaray was designed to get an open shot from behind the arc which happened text-book like as Bogdanovic got stuck in a screen.
It is an interesting transformation that Bogdan Bogdanovic is going through at the moment. When one or two years ago, he was not considered as a very special prospect, right now, some people consider him as a Top5 player (not even a prospect anymore) in Europe. This is underlined by his great numbers that he is averaging this season, but those are also the result of extended minutes. With another season of experience, the transition to become a real PG with great size and good physical presence is possible but Bogdanovic has to become more of a leader on the court and develop better court vision. Right now, most of his assists come in drive and dish situations or in transition. He will certainly not become a passing wizard in the future but this whole PG experience will help him to develop a way more versatile game for the future.
Draftexpress sees Bogdanovic right now at the bottom of the first round in 2014 which seems to be a fair position. The main question is if an NBA Team drafts him to make him play the PG position or be a scoring energizer. He might struggle in the NBA on the defensive end when playing the PG position as his lateral speed is not on the highest level. However, he can become a match-up problem when he is on the playmaker position. He would though probably develop into a very interesting player in a team-oriented system where creativity is asked from all the players on the court. With his good driving skills, Bogdanovic can be a factor right from start when coming to the NBA even though another year in a different system than Partizan would certainly help him to be more ready for the NBA in the future.