Bojan Bogdanovic: the newest piece of a Pacers rebirth

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Isaiah Thomas
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Isaiah Thomas /

The Indiana Pacers’ rebirth has added a sharpshooter, Bojan Bogdanovic, to a young roster. What’s his role going to be?

After all the moves so far this offseason (Paul George, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Lavoy Allen and Rakeem Christmas out; TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison in) there was something obviously missing.

Someone who could plop himself behind the 3-point arc and let fly, with reasonable hope of the shot going in.

That changed mere hours after the Pacers introduced Collison, Oladipo and Sabonis, when news broke that Indiana had signed Bojan Bogdanovic, a Croatian 3-point ace, late of Washington and Brooklyn.

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The news put me in a bit of a nostalgic mood for another small forward who spent a career wearing number 44.

Growing up, No. 44 in basketball, always meant one player: Austin Croshere, who wore that number for the Pacers for nearly a decade.

Croshere was never a star player, but he was always a hard worker would could space the floor, or take an overly eager defender off the dribble and beat him to the rim.

His Pacers’ career had a weird arc. He was never going to see the floor during his first couple seasons, not on those loaded ’98 and ’99 teams. Then he burst onto the scene as a key reserve in ’00 and ’01, rarely saw the floor for the next three seasons before becoming a useful rotation piece over his last couple seasons in Indy.

He had two moments when his star shone brightest. The first was in the 2000 NBA Finals, when he was the Pacers’ third best player, dropping 15 points and 6 boards per game on the Lakers as Indiana’s sixth man. The second came late in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, a series that was quickly slipping away from the favored Pacers.

Down 2-1, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle flummoxed the Pistons’ Larry Brown, by inserting Croshere in his starting lineup. Croshere buried three 3-pointers and the Pacers won by 15. Detroit adjusted eventually and that was that, but for a fleeting moment Croshere’s perimeter game was lethal.

I said all that to say this: Bogdanovic reminds me a lot of Croshere. Actually “Croshere” in Croatian is “Bogdanovic”. I’m kidding, it’s not but their games are very similar.

FG%3PT%FT%RPG% of shots at rim% of shots from 3

They were similar in size to each other (Bogdanovic: 6-8, 216; Croshere 6-9, 235). They both shunned mid-range jumpers and preferred the analytical ideal of either shooting from deep or at the rim (combined percentage of shots at the rim or from 3: Bogdanovic: 72.7, Croshere: 64.2). Defensively, neither of them are Ron Artest, but they aren’t a detriment either. They even look alike.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Austin Croshere

Bogdanovic has frequently played a Croshere-esque role throughout his career. He’s been an infrequent starter (started 51-percent of his career games) but frequent contributor (he’s played in 238 of a possible 246 games).

He also gives a Pacers team devoid of shooting some flexibility. All summer, Glenn Robinson III has been the easy projection as the starter at small forward. The signing of Bogdanovic doesn’t make that projection as clear cut.

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It’s not because Robinson is any worse than Bogdanovic (or vice versa). It just comes down to balance. If the Pacers keep Thaddeus Young as their starting power forward, then starting Robinson would mean that three of the Pacers starters (Oladipo, Robinson and Young) would be slashers with only a hint of 3-point shooting. That would also mean the Pacers spacing would be far from ideal. A trio of slashers with little room to slash isn’t good.

Starting Bogdanovic would help unclog the offense and allow Oladipo more room to work. It’ll give Young space too, but he’s not going to be a top option. Starting Bogdanovic will also give Collison a steady option from deep to kick to on drives.

Even if he doesn’t start, Bogdanovic is used to being a steady scoring option in any role. For his NBA career, he’s never scored less than nine points per game. That is unlike Croshere, whose points and role fluctuated.

All in all: it’s a good signing for a team that isn’t trying to be Nets-level awful next year. Bogdanovic is an experienced player who can be efficient without being a focal point and who comes in on a reasonable salary.

The Pacers still aren’t done, or they shouldn’t be. They still need to add another perimeter scorer. The pickings are getting slim, but options are still out there. Some of the accurate/affordable marksmen still available are: Jason Terry .380, Luke Babbitt .406, Mike Dunleavy .377, Arron Afflalo .386, Marcus Thornton .358 and Reggie Bullock .355. A couple less prolific but more defensively-minded wings left are: Thabo Sefolosha .345 and Gerald Henderson .327.

There are a couple of other intriguing options. One is the Warriors’ Ian Clark.

His role on the Warriors might have just evaporated with Golden State’s signing of Nick Young. Clark does fit into who the Pacers are looking for: he’s young (26) and he’s shown promise (shot .364 from deep). Full disclosure, I’m just speculating here, Indy might have no interest in him but he does fit the bill.

Another is C.J. Miles.

Miles’ journey is getting interesting. Minnesota wants him, badly, but they might not be able to afford him. They could do a sign and trade with the Pacers, however, Indy wants the OKC pick that Minnesota has, and the Wolves don’t want to give it up. The Wolves want to add in Cole Aldrich, but why would Indy want him? The Pacers already have a glut of bigs and not enough wings.

Oh, and Indy might still be interested in keeping Miles.

Next: The Indiana Pacers are set to waive Rakeem Christmas

Whether Indy signs Miles, or Clark, or one of those other guys, or not, Bogdanovic will be a key piece to completing this roster, and he might make a few 3’s along the way.