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Bogdan Bogdanović: to Bogi or not Bogi...that’s the question

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Sacramento Kings v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Bogdan Bogdanović’s name has bee swirling in trade rumors for a big portion of this season which is nearing it’s trade deadline. The Sixers have reportedly expressed interest in BoBo and we know GM Elton Brand has not been shy in making splash moves. With a potentially serious hamstring injury sustained by Josh Richardson last night, the price they’re willing to pay for help may have only gone up.

Dan Volpone has written about how Bogdanović could help this team in a swap involving Mike Scott. Bogi could answer some of this team’s questions and fill some holes. But he won’t come cheaply, he probably isn’t fully healthy, and he could be too expensive to retain after this season. Would they pay big just to rent? With great risk comes great reward. So let’s look at the pros and cons of each important factor. With all that in mind, it would be fun if they could land the Serbian star. Let’s do a deep dive.

The case for Bogi

Defense wins championships but offense is crucial too. Most of the champions are great at both. Consider the last 9 NBA teams to hoist the Larry O.B. In terms of points per 100 possessions, here are the regular season and playoff rankings for those eventual champions:

No team to finish outside of the top 8 in scoring efficiency during the regular season has worn the crown since 2011. The Sixers would need roughly 2.5 more points every 100 possessions to crack that threshold. They’re already top 4 in defense.

CBS’ Sam Quinn wrote the following about Bogi and it makes a great case for him answering at least a few of the Sixers’ biggest questions:

Per Quinn, the bold emphasis at the end is my own:

“The numbers Bogdan Bogdanovic posted in the [2019] World Cup were absolutely breathtaking. He had a higher field goal percentage at 55.6 percent than Giannis Antetokounmpo....If someone put up those numbers against you in a video game, you’d assume they were cheating.

Bogdanovic isn’t. He, like many foreign stars before him, is merely taking advantage of a system that is far more conducive to his success than the NBA. The Sacramento Kings have spent two years squeezing him into a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield....

Whereas Sacramento’s offense is designed to accentuate their strengths, Bogdanovic has been forced into an awkward role as a backup point guard. He is a tremendous passer for a wing, but he isn’t exactly Nash. If the World Cup has proven anything, it is how lethal Bogdanovic can be when properly utilized as an off-ball weapon.

Serbia has no such predilections. Jokic is the team’s biggest star, but its offense is built around Bogdanovic because he has been its most effective scorer. Plays are drawn up specifically for him, and one of their most common is a basic dribble-handoff.”

With Ben Simmons in town there’s plenty of room for that off-ball guard. Plus, Brett Brown loves to utilize dribble hand offs, remember the chemistry JJ Redick used to have with Joel Embiid? And also... holy smokes! Look what we saw on M.L.K. Day with Simmons playing alongside a guard with play making skills. Is it impossible Bogdanović guy could offer some lite version of what they once hoped Markelle Fultz could become?

Could he help unlock that next level in Simmons and also let Embiid get some easy buckets and dimes like he did when Redick was around? Could Bogi be Coach Brown’s Manu and help him land that damn plane he’s always talking about while shutting everyone up about trading Ben or Joel?

Fully healthy last season, here Bog gives the Bucks all they can eat. Notice how crafty he can be navigating screens, keeping his dribble alive, and getting a good look for himself or a teammate. The Sixers don’t have anyone who possesses this level of half court playmaking:

Pinch yourself and let’s focus

Some of you may already be salivating. But there are four risks here: 1) assets going out 2) opportunity cost (who else might you get for the same outgoing assets) 3) injury history 4) losing him in free agency

Assets going out

Zhaire Smith and a future first round pick might be what this takes. (Guessing). While ESPN’s experts loved Deandre Ayton the most in 2018, The Stepien liked a kid named Luka Dončić. ESPN thought Trae Young might be a great fit for the Knicks with their 9th pick, but The Stepien ranked Young 3rd overall. See a theme? The draft nerds at the Stepien sometimes have an edge over top mainstream sources. The Stepien’s composite rankings had Smith 11th overall heading into the 2018 draft. Because of injuries and the team’s title aspirations, Smith hasn’t had a chance to get out and help the Sixers yet. But he isn’t someone to give up on so easily, even if he’s still not quite ready:

Guys like Smith give the Sixers some upside that’s difficult to obtain when you’re trying to put the finishing touches on a title run.

After hitting on players like Landry Shamet and Matisse Thybulle, this front office has demonstrated a true knack for mining talent late in drafts. They shouldn’t be too quick to pass up those future chances to recreate the magic either.

2) Opportunity cost

I wrote on Tuesday about the case for Robert Covington but he’s just one of many talented players the team would almost certainly be missing out on if they sprung for Bogi. You can use your imagination here and come up with other players who might be better targets. That’s all worth thinking about. Bogdan hasn’t had a positive PIPM and still hasn’t actualized much of that potential he’s showed overseas. Is he good enough to expend these resources on? If he received big playoff minutes would he be targeted when he’s on defense? A guy like Covington would not, and you wouldn’t worry about losing him in free agency by June.

3) Injury history

Right ankle: I was able to dig up that Bogi missed a couple of months with a right ankle injury back in 2016, before he came to the NBA. Eight months after returning from spraining that right ankle, some friendly-fire occurred. He landed on the foot of Kosta Koufos and sprained that same ankle again costing him the first 3 games of the season.

Left knee: he completed his age 25 and rookie season logging a whopping 78 games. But that came with a cost, because by season’s end we learned this:

Bogdan really loves playing for his hometown Serbian National Team and he felt healthy enough to suit up for them by September of 2018. But when the team took on Estonia he reinjured the same knee just months later and needed another surgery. We’re left to wonder if a full summer of rehab without intense non-NBA competition could have helped him avoid that second surgery.

That cost him the first 10 games of his second NBA season in 2018-2019. Other than that though, he only missed time due to rest (one game) and a sore foot (one game) the rest of that year.

That’s just 16 games missed in two seasons. Not shabby.

2019-2020

This season has been different. He’s missed 11 games with a variety of maladies. In November his left hamstring got tight (something that has happened before), though it only cost him one game like it did in 2018. But later he did complain of it ailing him through subsequent games. Per NBC Sports James Ham:

“This hamstring cannot get worse than it is now, but I struggle with it. It hurts all the time. When I bend, it’s there, the pain is there. But it’s something I have to deal with, I have to play with consistent pain. But no excuses.”

Bogdanovic is hurting. His numbers show it and on occasion, you can even see the pain on his face.”

Ham was right that his production dipped following his return to action. Then by December 2nd he missed one game with a right knee contusion. That didn’t seem like a big deal. But for whatever it’s worth he was listed on injury reports with the issue for the next ten days or so.

Right ankle again: by December 20th he’d miss 3 straight games with a “sore right ankle.” He would return to the lineup but shot just 40 percent over his next five games before admitting this...

Per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee:

“Bogdanovic limped off the floor with 6:51 to play in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies. He appeared to be in considerable discomfort before being led to the locker room for treatment. Bogdanovic later said he “felt pinching in the back of my ankle.”

Bogdanovic said the ankle injury has been an ongoing issue for him.

“I was playing through this all the time,” he said. “Today it was a little bit harder.”

He wound up missing the next 6 games with that ankle issue, now 9 in total.

In Summary, he’s dealt with recurring right ankle issues. He’s had two surgeries on one left knee. The rest of his history is basically minor as far back as 2016. It does feel like he might need a bit of time off to get fully right. Between the NBA and his National team duties, he’s logged a ton of minutes the last couple of calendar years and it feels like it might be catching up with him lately. I don’t assume he has any plans to miss the FIBA games this summer either as Serbia has already qualified.

Risk 4) Free-agency

Here is the final element of the calculus. Are you spending assets on Bogdanović with the intent to rent him and let him go to the highest bidder next season? Or is the plan to keep the man long term?

If they wanted to keep Bogdanović this summer, they could technically offer the soon to be Restricted Free Agent a max-level salary. They could! More likely, they wouldn’t have to. But something around $20m annually feels like a number in the ballpark for what he might command in this wimpy 2020 free agent class. After turning down an extension that would have net him $12.5M annually to stay in Sacramento last summer, the 27 year old would definitely be looking for the big bucks. And Sixers owners would have to be willing to spend deep into the luxury tax to retain him along with their current nucleus. It would cost them upwards of around $275M for this current core plus Bogdanović at ~$20m next year alone per Jeff Siegel, Founder of Earlybirdrights.com.

The Sixers are already looking at some hefty luxury tax bills once Ben Simmons’ max extension kicks in this summer. Owner Josh Harris has vowed repeatedly to do so. Offering Bogdan “Malcolm Brogdon type money” would send them even deeper into repeater tax penalties. But if they wanted to they could do that this summer and then use the $6M Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception on a veteran player and fill the rest of the roster out with minimum deals. It all depends on how much they’d be willing to pay.

Then they’d have to plead with Bogi to take a summer off from Serbian Natty hoops and rest a little after winning a title in June.

What’s it gonna be?

I think it would be pretty fun if they were able to obtain him and give him the type of role he occupies when he plays for the Serbian National team. Yes, the risk of losing him this year to injuries is real. Yes the risk of losing the valuable assets it would take to obtain him may ultimately not justify the cost of acquisition. Yes the risk of missing out on other helpful players on longterm contracts (like Robert Covington) is there. And the risk of owners suggesting they’d pay big to keep him but ultimately changing their minds may even be there too. It’s all worth lots of consideration. But one can certainly understand why they’re reportedly focused on landing Bogdan for the right price: