Getting to know Bogdan Bogdanovic, NBA's highest-paid and most intriguing rookie

The highest-paid rookie in NBA history is a 25-year old, World of Warcraft-loving Serbian guard. But despite being one of the most intriguing players on one of the most intriguing rosters in the league, he is, to many, a completely unknown player. So, who is the Sacramento Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic?

Well, Boban Marjanovic, internet sensation, Detroit Pistons big man, and Bogdanovic's teammate on the Serbian national team, would tell you he's a great player, but more importantly, he's a great person.

"Everybody knows how he's a great player," Marjanovic told CBS Sports after the Pistons lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on an early December night in Milwaukee. "I can say first, because I know him personally, he's an amazing guy, amazing person. What's most important is to have all the full package of basketball skills and great guy off the court."

And the statistics would tell you that through his first 26 games in the Association, Bogdanovic is averaging 10 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and shooting 36.2 percent from downtown. For rookies, he's ninth in scoring, ninth in assists, fifth in steals, and eighth in 3-point percentage.

But it is hard to paint a complete picture with platitudes and statistics. So let us turn to the words of Bogdanovic and those closest to him, as well as the film from his first few months in the NBA. Then, we will truly get the answer to who is Bogdan Bogdanovic?

Bogdan Bogdanovic is an underrated playmaker ...

After shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers for Fenerbahce last season in the EuroLeague, and 37.6 percent from downtown over the course of 108 career EuroLeague games, Bogdanovic came into the NBA with the reputation of being a strong shooter.

However, it's been his playmaking ability which has drawn the attention of his coach and teammates. "I think often times he's labeled perhaps as a shooter, but I think he is more of a playmaker," Kings coach Dave Joerger said before the Sacramento played Milwaukee in early December.

In the quiet visiting locker room following the Kings' 109-104 loss that night, veteran forward Garrett Temple agreed. "When I signed, last year actually, they said we had a guy, Bogdanovic, that was gonna come over next year probably," Temple told CBS Sports. "He was a shooter, but I didn't know about his playmaking ability, ability to work off pick-and-rolls."

Though his assist totals -- 2.3 per game, ninth among rookies -- aren't gaudy, they are pretty solid considering he isn't a point guard. As Vince Carter told CBS Sports, Bogdanovic "just knows how to play."

In particular, Bogdanovic has developed quite a nice little partnership in the pick-and-roll with Willie Cauley-Stein, feeding the big man time and again for finishes at the rim. For the season, 20 of his 61 assists have gone to the big man, while he's thrown no more than six to anyone else on the team.

... but he can still shoot

Bogdanovic started off ice-cold from 3-point land in his NBA career, going 10 of 35 (28.5 percent) from downtown over the first month of the season. Since then, however, he's shown the shooting ability that he put on display year in and year out in Europe.

Since Nov. 18, Bogdanovic is taking over four 3-pointers a night, and is knocking down 40.7 percent of them. The strong shooting over the past month has raised his season average to over 36 percent, which is good for eighth among all rookies.

The biggest difference maker is the fact that he's now making the shots everyone expected him to make all along. Over the first month of the season, he was hitting just 33 percent of his wide-open (no defender within six-feet) 3-point attempts, but in the last month, he's connecting on exactly half of such attempts.

Give him an open look these days, and it's going down.

He is confident

Even while moving to the NBA, it's easier to have more confidence than most rookies when you're four or five years older than the rest of the class -- especially when you've already had big moments playing overseas.

Still, when your confidence is making an impression on Z-Bo himself, Zach Randolph, it's pretty clear you're on another level. "The kid is unbelievable," a relaxed Randolph told CBS Sports as he brushed his hair before the Kings took on the Bucks. "I mean, the things he does. He has a lot of confidence. The sky's the limit, I believe he can be an All-Star in this league."

Just over a month into his NBA career, Bogdanovic showed off his confidence (and skill), by going right at the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green, to bank in a game-winner against the Warriors in Oracle Arena. There won't be many bigger moments for the Kings this season.

However, that same level of confidence that led him to go one-on-one with Green in the closing seconds can also at times be a detriment for the Kings. Bogdanovic has taken some truly outrageous shots late in the game this season, including one against the Bucks, in which he dribbled around for far too long, then launched a 3 that landed off the top of the backboard. Take a look:

In addition, Bogdanovic, who is averaging 1.6 turnovers per game, gets a number of his turnovers from trying to do too much, especially with his passing. For as good as his playmaking can be, he gets a little overconfident at times that he can make plays that aren't really there.

Such as this pass:

Or this one:

As he explained after the loss to the Bucks, he is still trying to get adjusted to the step up in competition. "First of all, the length, and the speed of the game, the pace," Bogdanovic said, when asked what has been the toughest adjustment for him. "Every single team is great. Everyone can beat each other. It's a more competitive league, the most competitive league in the world for sure."

He is a key member of the on-the-rise Serbian national team

The United States is obviously at the top of the international basketball world, winning the past three Olympic gold medals. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. beat Bogdanovic's Serbia, arguably the second-best national team in the world.

In the past three major tournaments -- the 2014 FIBA World Cup, 2016 Olympics, and EuroBasket 2017 -- Serbia has taken home the silver medal. The recent success of the Serbian national team is a point of pride for Bogdanovic, who was a part of all three of those teams.

Not only is Bogdanovic proud to do well for his country, but he believes success on the international level has helped Serbian players get into the league. (There are currently five Serbians -- Bogdanovic, Marjanovic, Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica, and Milos Teodosic -- in the NBA.)

"When we play great as a team, every single value of the players are getting higher," Bogdanovic explained. "I think that's how we make it to the league. I'm just thankful and really happy we have so many players in the league."

After a slow start to his NBA career, a now better adjusted and more comfortable Bogdanovic has been showing why the Kings were eager to finally bring him over from Europe. He's averaging 11.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and shooting 41 percent from downtown in December, and has been one of the bright spots on a struggling Kings team.

As Joerger put it succinctly after the team's loss to the Bucks a few weeks back, "I'm glad we got him."

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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