Euro League stars are always a bit of a mystery. You can end up with anything from asuperstar like the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, toa solid contributor like the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli to an out-and-out dud like Wizards bust Jan Vesely.
The most recent import appears to be European star Bojan Bogdanovic, who will be joining the Nets for the 2014-15 season, according to multiple reports. The 25-year-old shooting guard was the first pick of the second round (31st overall) in 2011 by the Heat, but he was traded on draft night to the Nets via the Timberwolves. Teams at the time knew he would probably remain in Europe for the short term. The Nets tried to bring Bogdanovic over to Brooklyn before the 2013-14 season, but he decided to remain with Fenerbahce Ulker in the Turkish league after the Nets didn’t meet his contract demands.
The deal now is reportedly for three years and $10.3 million, which is the mini mid-level exception. Due to their salary cap situation, it was the max the Nets could offer.
American fans know little to nothing about Bogdanovic, so we’ll try to catch you up with some info on the Croatian sensation.
1. From downtown
Bogdanovic is known as a sharpshooter from 3-point range. Last season with Fenerbahce he shot just 29.8 percent from behind the arc, but the previous two seasons he was at 41.1 percent and 40.5 percent. It is worth noting the 3-point line in international competition is a shade over 22 feet, while in the NBA it is 23 feet, 9 inches. But that’s probably something Bogdanovic will just have to adapt to. It’s not unlike a college player coming to the pros. He has the distance, he just needs to get used to finding the arc on the floor. His jumper is plenty smooth enough to translate to the NBA distance. Joe Johnson (41.5 percent) was the only Nets player to shoot 40 percent last season, while Paul Pierce (35.8 percent), Deron Williams (34 percent) and Mirza Teletovic (33.9 percent) all sank 3-pointers at better than a third of the time. If Bogdanovic can shoot around 35 percent at the slightly longer distance, the Nets would be more than happy.
2. So who is he like?
As with any Euro or college player, NBA fans want a comparison to someone in the league (or previously in the league). Comparisons are usually pointless — ESPN’s Keith Law always makes this point with baseball players — because we rarely compare unknown quantities to bad players. No one remembers Joe Shmoe second-round draft pick who flamed out after a few years, but they do remember the seven- or eight-year pros. That being said … on to the comparisons! There will be a natural inclination to compare Bogdanovic to fellow Croatian Drazen Petrovic since he is now also joining the Nets. They do have some similarities, specifically as shooters, but the late Petrovic was only 6-foot-5, whereas Bogdanovic is 6-foot-8. It may not seem like much, but it allows Bogdanovic to be more of a presence in the paint. Petrovic was clearly a shooting guard, but Bogdanovic is more of a wing who can play with his back to the basket. A better comparison might be made to the 6-foot-9 Danilo Gallinari, who New York fans know well from his time with the Knicks. Both are good shooters, mediocre athletes and have versatile offensive games.
3. Experience counts
One nice thing about European players is they usually get started young. For Bogdanovic, he got started really, really young. He began his pro career at just 15 years old with local club Zrinjski Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As is usually the case though, he used this time to develop his game more than actually compete against adult players. He showed enough promise to join Real Madrid, a Euro power just like soccer, where he spent most of his time with the junior team from 2005 to 2009. His career began for real with Cibona Zagreb in Croatia in the 2009-10 season. Remember, he was still just 20 years old at this point and had spent five years with professional teams in a handful of countries. He was an All-Star with Cibona in 2010 and joined Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce in 2011. He was a Turkish league All-Star in 2013 and led Fenerbahce to the Turkish Basketball League championship this past season. He won’t have any fears about matching up with NBA players after that résumé.
In fact, Bogdanovic has already gotten some experience against NBA players. Check out some video of him taking on Oklahoma City last year when the Thunder was on a preseason European tour. He showed out well, including some nice back-to-the-basket moves against the smaller Jeremy Lamb. He even drills a 3-pointer in Kevin Durant’s face. He finished with 19 points on 4-for-10 shooting.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.