Bogdan Bogdanovic is on a rampage. There is no better illustration of this than the logo 3 he made on Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets. That he swished is less remarkable than that he launched it with eight seconds on the shot clock.
It was about as ambitious a heat check as you'll see in an NBA game, but it wasn't necessarily the most difficult of the career-high eight 3s Bogdanovic hit that afternoon. He made stepback 3s, he made 3s over taller, longer defenders and, during the Atlanta Hawks' fourth-quarter rally, he made a 3 with two Hornets flying at him.
Bogdanovic scored a season-high 32 points in the 105-101 win, the latest in a series of stellar performances. In his last eight games, Bogdanovic has averaged 21.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 36.1 minutes, with 0.504/0.515/0.867 shooting splits.
The hot streak stands out in part because of what preceded it. Bogdanovic began the season coming off the bench, standing around and shooting poorly. Nine games in, he suffered an avulsion fracture in his right knee. When he returned, almost two months later, he had a new coach and a minutes restriction. Now he has a starting role and more offensive responsibility, and Atlanta is finally getting the full Bogdanovic experience.
Bogdanovic has a quick release and picture-perfect shooting form, but the reason the Hawks are paying him $72 million over four seasons -- and the reason the Milwaukee Bucks went after him -- is that he's much craftier than the average sniper. He can run off screens and he can run pick-and-rolls. He throws no-look passes with accuracy and scores from midrange with proficiency. Bogdanovic would not have been Atlanta's lead playmaker against Charlotte if Trae Young hadn't been out with a left calf contusion, but he's exactly what you want in a secondary one.
In a recent interview with The Athletic's Chris Kirschner, Bogdanovic commended coach Nate McMillan for getting the Hawks organized on offense. There is less freedom than there was under Lloyd Pierce, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Nate is trying to get everyone involved," Bogdanovic said. For him, that means more set plays designed to get him open shots, and more opportunities to create with the ball in his hands. He looks like a completely different player than he was at the outset, when his role was "kind of simple -- just catch and shoot and that's it."
Bogdanovic has only played 29 games for the Hawks, but in a way, he's played three distinct seasons. A comparison:
|The three Bogdan's|
First nine games (213 min)
March 2-28 (12 games, 276 min)
Last eight games (289 min)
Bogdanovic was assisted on 87 percent of his made shots (and every single one of his made 3s) in his first nine games, per Cleaning The Glass. On the season, that number is down to 68 percent, which is still easily a career-high. To some degree, this is the result of playing on the same team as Young, a gifted pick-and-roll playmaker. But while Bogdanovic has run a fraction of the pick-and-rolls that Young has, the two of them have virtually identical efficiency numbers when their pick-and-rolls lead directly to shot attempts, per Synergy Sports: 1.077 points per possession for Young, 1.076 points per possession for Bogdanovic.
The rationale for signing Bogdanovic -- and Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo, the latter of whom has since been traded for Lou Williams -- was to take pressure off of Young. As dangerous as Young's pick-and-rolls already were, they are even more so when the opposing defense has to worry about Atlanta generating offense in other ways. There is nothing interesting about McMillan running Floppy, a set in which one wing screens for another under the basket and then both come off pindowns, aside from the fact that the Hawks were not doing it early in the season.
Before Bogdanovic's injury, when he played without Young his per-minute stats were a lot like the ones he put up with the Sacramento Kings, but he was mostly a bystander when Young was in control of the offense. For most of March, he was efficient with Young on the court and terribly inefficient with Young on the bench. Lately, he and the Hawks have had the best of both worlds: Bogdanovic is more involved than he used to be when sharing the court with Young, and he's playing like a star when he's running the show himself. His numbers in the last eight games:
|What the Hawks needed|
Young on the court (178 min)
Young off the court (111 min)
The Hawks have scored 117 points per 100 possessions in this two-week stretch, and they've scored 121 per 100 with Bogdanovic on the court. During the 111 minutes in which he played without Young, they scored a 125.3 per 100 with a plus-20.5 net rating. This small, superb sample cannot be sustainable, but it suggests that their plan is beginning to come together. Bogdanovic is playing his game, and Atlanta is rolling.
In the final four weeks of the regular season, however, he and the Hawks are going to have to make some adjustments. It wasn't just Young who was out against Charlotte; Gallinari (right foot soreness), John Collins (left ankle sprain), Tony Snell (right ankle sprain), De'Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) and Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery) were all sidelined, too. "I'm really excited to see us with a full, healthy roster," Bogdanovic told reporters on Sunday. "It is going to bring us to another level." It is not a question of whether or not Bogdanovic will see a decline in minutes and touches when his injured teammates return, but rather how drastic that decline will be.
Just a month ago, Bogdanovic came off the bench against his former team and shot 2-for-12 in 22 minutes. Leading up to the March 25 trade deadline, he was available in trade talks, according to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer. The Hawks should be thrilled that they kept him, and his turnaround should serve as a reminder of how quickly things change in the NBA. Down the stretch, can Bogdanovic continue to play this brand of basketball regardless of what's going on around him? Atlanta's coaching staff surely wants him to build on this, but it also needs to integrate several important pieces and figure out how to optimize the rotation defensively with the playoffs in mind.
With Bogdanovic playing more of a featured role, it is possible that the fourth-place Hawks have found a coherent identity. They're only 1.5 games ahead of the eighth-place New York Knicks, though, and half of their remaining 18 games are against teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoffs or play-in. Encouraging as it has been to see a confident Bogdanovic in his element for a couple of weeks, the situation remains precarious.