Leader of the Horde: Early Returns on Bogdan Bogdanovic

After signing a three-year $27 million contract, Bogdan Bogdanovic is now a member of the Sacramento Kings. Here is a look at how his first few NBA games have gone for the nominal rookie.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is a rookie in name only. While this is his first season in the NBA, Bogdanovic has been one of Europe's rising stars since he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 27th pick in 2013. Bogdan was the first player in Euroleague history to win the Rising Star award two years in a row in 2014 and 2015. He was a key piece in Fenerbahce's Euroleague Championship this past season.

On a team full of young players, Bogdanovic is simultaneously a rookie and a vet. De'Aaron Fox has already latched on to him and heaped praise on his leadership; the two have clearly started to develop good chemistry both on and off the court. Bogdanovic missed the first three games of the season with an ankle injury, but he quickly played his way into the starting lineup. The Kings have struggled to start the young season, but Bogdanovic has been a bright spot on a roster looking to the future.

Offense: Sharpshooter gone cold

Bogdan Bogdanovic's best skill is his shooting touch. Bogdanovic shot 43% from deep last year in Euroleague. He is more than just a shooter on the offensive end--he has solid enough handles to function as a secondary creator, and his passing vision has steadily improved in each season since the Suns drafted him. However, his shooting from long range so far this season has not been there to start his first NBA campaign.

Bogdanovic has only hit three of his 13 attempts from deep so far this season but is still shooting a decent 46.7% from the floor. He has shot an unsustainable 84.6% in the restricted area, but he has shown enough finishing ability to indicate that he will probably be above average near the rim. He is also shooting 50% on mid-range jumpers and has hit two of five three-pointers from the 20-24 foot range. His struggles so far from deep have come from well beyond the NBA line--he has made just one of eight shots from 25 feet and out.

Bogdan's poor shooting may be due to adjusting to the NBA arc. However, his poor shooting thus far may also be a facet of the incredibly small sample size of his NBA career. His far larger sample size in Euroleague shows that he should at least be an average shooter from distance, even with the adjustment to the NBA three-point line.

Defense: Size and speed

Bogdan Bogdanovic may have been touted as a shooter, but he is not a typical Euroleague sharpshooter who found their way into the NBA despite limited athleticism. Bogdanovic is at worst an average NBA athlete with solid wing size at 6'6" and 205 lbs. More importantly, his defensive IQ is almost as good as his offensive IQ. Despite the schematic differences between NBA offenses and Euroleague offenses, Bogdanovic still knows where to be on that end of the floor more than most of the Kings' roster:

The Kings' poor defense to start the season is, sadly, not an issue of a small sample size. With the youth and inexperience on the roster (not to mention a defensively atrocious veteran in Zach Randolph playing heavy minutes), Sacramento will not be able to climb particularly far above their current ranking of 26th in the NBA in defense by Defensive Rating. While Bogdan will also have some struggles with adjusting to the speed of the NBA game, he has the tools and the instincts to be a solid contributor on the defensive end of the floor. 

Future Outlook: Prime Time

Bogdan Bogdanovic is on an outsized contract for a rookie. His three-year $27 million deal looks outlandish in comparison to the rest of the cheap rookie contracts. However, Bogdanovic may ironically end up being cheaper for the Kings than their other rookies if he lives up to expectations. He will be paid $9 million a year to be a starter from 25 to 27, or three years of his basketball prime. By contrast, De'Aaron Fox will be 22 when his current contract expires and will get far more than $9 million per year (either on an extension or as a restricted free agent) on that next deal.

Bogdanovic does not have the same upside as Fox, but he has already earned a starting spot and seems to be in no danger of losing it anytime soon. The contract might seem inordinately large for an NBA rookie, but Bogdan is no rookie. $9 million per year is a great deal for a starter on the wing, and Bogdan's play thus far makes the Marquese Chriss deal an easy choice for Vlade Divac's best trade as the GM (confirm his official position) of the Sacramento Kings.

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