After a breakout year in 2009/2010, Croatian wing Bojan Bogdanovic
is establishing himself as a legitimate star in the early going of 2010-2011, ranking as one of the top scorers in the Euroleague while leading the Adriatic League with 22 points per game.
Bogdanovic, who was identified as a top European prospect very early on in his careerearning his first DraftExpress write-up over five years ago
at the tender age of 16moved back to Croatia in 2009 after struggling to establish himself in Spain with Real Madrid.
Since then, he's absolutely blossomed, turning in an excellent performance at the FIBA World Championships this past summer, finishing as Croatia's second best scorer, and dropping 17 points against Team USA.
The biggest change in Bogdanovic's game this year revolves around his shot-creating ability. Whereas last season you could classify him as being mostly a shooterover 60% of his field goal attempts came from behind the arcthis year Bogdanovic has transformed himself into a complete scorer and the unquestioned go-to guy of his young Cibona Zagreb team.
We're now seeing a much more aggressive Bogdanovic with the ball in his hands, both in transition and in the half-court. He regularly grabs a rebound and starts the fast break himself, and his coach has no problem isolating him at the top of the key and letting him take his man off the dribble one on one.
Bogdanovic has a nice first step and a good crossover he can utilize to get his defender off balance. On top of that, he has the ability to drive left or right, stop and go, and change speeds, which you rarely see from European wing prospects playing at this level of competition. His free throw attempts have skyrocketed this season in turn, from 52 attempts in 40 Euroleague and Adriatic games last year to 72 attempts in just 12 games this season.
A very capable threat from outside the arc as well, Bogdanovic shows a very interesting blend of size and shooting ability at 6-foot-7, being capable of putting the ball in the net both with his feet set or off the dribble. He sports an extremely quick release on his jumper, which when combined with his height, NBA plus range and unlimited confidence in his scoring ability, makes him an extremely dangerous weapon to have out on the court at any given moment. He's only making 35% of his 3-point attempts on the season thus far, but that's probably more of a reflection of the type of shots he's forced to take on an otherwise very limited offensive team than of his actual shooting prowess.
Despite his excellent production, there are a few caveats that should be made about the season Bogdanovic is having thus far. For one, he's doing it for a team that is very down this year for financial reasonsthey're currently 0-5 in the Euroleague and just 3-4 in the unimposing Adriatic League. He also has the luxury of having his team's entire offense built around him, which is something you rarely see at this level in Europe, especially when discussing a 21 year old prospect.
Bogdanovic is also not producing in the most efficient manner he turns the ball over a decent amount and is not posting incredibly flattering shooting percentages. He tends to struggle finishing around the basket in traffic at times, as he's not terribly explosive around the rim.
Defensively, Bogdanovic is below average at best at the European level, and could have major issues guarding his position in the NBA if he doesn't improve substantially in this area. He has poor lateral quickness and looks very upright in his stance on the perimeter, making him a frequent target for coaches to isolate against in the Euroleague. His effort doesn't always appear to be the best either. While offensively he has all the tools to play the shooting guard position, in the NBA he would likely struggle defending some of the better athletes we tend to find at that spot, which would likely make him better suited guarding small forwards. He'll need to get tougher and stronger to hold his own there, though.
Despite the negatives, there just aren't that many 21-year old players Bogdanovic's size who show the type of scoring instincts and skill-level that he does, and the way he's producing is extremely impressive any way you slice it. If he continues to put up the numbers he has and is able to shoot consistently and not be a liability defensively, he is going to get quite a few looks this upcoming June, starting in the first round.