Player Review 2018: Bojan Bogdanovic

Age: 29
Years Pro: 4
Status: The Pacers have a team option, with a minimal guarantee for next season.
Key Stats: Averaged 14.3 points while shooting 47 percent from the field, including 40 percent from the 3-point line, in 30.8 minutes per game. All were career highs.

Bojan Bogdanovic had the best and most satisfying of his four NBA seasons and did what he was hired to do by the Pacers. Still, he might be the most vulnerable of all the starters to offseason changes.

Regardless of his fate, Bogdanovic provided his share of thrills with 40 percent 3-point shooting and a more complete game than was anticipated. Viewed up close, however, it was as interesting for the manner in which he was integrated into the team chemistry as anything else.

It would have been easy for him to become a bit of an outcast. He's from another country. English ranks third on his list of spoken languages. He's introverted by nature, and while polite at all times, he never seemed particularly eager to talk with anyone.

His teammates kept drawing him in, though. When he made that panic-stricken pass that cost the Pacers a victory over Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 18, he was clearly depressed as he hurriedly left the locker room. Some of his teammates sent encouraging texts that night and into the next morning, while others offered verbal reassurance. He responded with a solid 19-point outing in a victory at Atlanta two nights later.

The successful manner in which he had been absorbed into the mix was best on display following a victory over Milwaukee on March 5, when he scored 29 points. Upon dressing and speaking with reporters, a joyful Bogdanovic shouted, "All right, brothers!" as he left the locker room — most likely words he had never spoken in the locker rooms during his previous stops in Brooklyn and Washington.

"All right, bro!" Myles Turner responded.

A scoring average is just that, an average. No player shoots with similar accuracy in every game, and for most shooters the season brings some wild swings between net-scorching and rim-clanking that meet in the middle. Bogdanovic, though, seemed prone to extended fluctuations to arrive at his 14.3 regular season norm. He averaged 15.2 points on 52 percent shooting in October and November, but 11.7 points on 41 percent shooting in December. He managed to go scoreless in 24 minutes in a home game against Charlotte late in January, but that shamed him into a strong finish.

"I was really ****ed off, and I tried to tell myself that I have to be aggressive and the team needs me," he said in recalling that game. "I'm a starter and I'm playing heavy minutes. That was kind of a big game for me even though I was scoreless."

A big game, because it sparked a run in which he scored in double figures in a career-best 16 consecutive games. He averaged 18.9 points over that stretch, shooting 53 percent from the field while hitting 49 percent of his 3-pointers.

He also had four games in which he played 30 minutes or more and failed to grab a rebound. One of those, unfortunately, was in Game 7 of the playoff series with Cleveland when he played 37 minutes. He also hit just 1-of-9 shots in that game, including 1-of-7 3-pointers.

His only made shot gave the Pacers their first lead midway through the first quarter. That hopeful moment didn't lead to anything, however, as he missed two 3-point attempts and failed to handle a simple pass on the perimeter in the remaining minutes.

That final game left a stain on an otherwise solid season. He scored 20 or more points 15 times — the Pacers won 12 of those games — and peaked at 29 during the regular season. His most meaningful performance came in Game 3 of the playoffs, when he hit 11-of-15 shots and 7-of-9 3-pointers to score 30 points, picking up the slack for a struggling Victor Oladipo to help the Pacers take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Overall, however, his play declined in the postseason, when his scoring average dropped from 14.3 to 12.4 and his shooting percentage from 47 to 39.5.

His defense was better than expected, but still below average. Regarded as one of the league's worst at his position when he arrived, he responded to Nate McMillan's demands and assistant coach Dan Burke's instructions to be respectable in most games. Still, the advanced stats were not kind. While he rated as the Pacers' third-best offensive player, he was the worst defender among the 10 rotation players at the end of the season. He also rated as the second-worst rebounder in that group, barely beating out point guard Darren Collison.

With a contract containing only a minimal guarantee for next season, his fate likely will hinge on what small forwards become available in the offseason. There's an argument for bringing him back, as a reserve if nothing else, but that decision ultimately lies with Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers' front office.

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