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Bojan Bogdanovic's offensive firepower would signal slight shift for Suns

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
September 2, 2022

In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ surprising trade for Donovan Mitchell on Thursday, it was only reasonable to wonder which Utah Jazz players might be on the move next. With the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes put on hold for the time being, the Phoenix Suns are just one of many teams eyeing Utah’s imminent fire sale.

Jordan Clarkson? Mike Conley Jr.? Jarred Vanderbilt? ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski listed a few names that may be on the move next as the Jazz enter tank mode, including another potential candidate: Bojan Bogdanovic.

Not long after, Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported the Suns have interest in trading for the 33-year-old Bogdanovic and had already reached out to Utah.

It’s easy to see why there’d be interest; the 6-foot-7 wing averaged 18.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 30.9 minutes per game last year, shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from 3-point range on decent volume (6.8 attempts per game). There’s little question he can space the floor and put the ball in the hole. For Phoenix’s fifth-ranked offense, the prospect of adding more firepower is intriguing.

With that being said, a potential trade for Bogdanovic would signal a slight shift in Phoenix’s roster composition and maybe even their on-court philosophy. To that end, it’s worth exploring exactly what it’d take to land the Jazz veteran, and what the Suns should expect from Bogey if they did.

The trade

General manager James Jones did himself a huge favor when it comes to negotiating trades. Most of the mid-tier salaries on his roster are close in range and can be stacked up or swapped in and out to suit another team’s needs. Whether it’d be for a superstar, a mid-level salary or a low-end rotation player, the Suns have flexibility in building trade packages.

With Bogdanovic making $19.3 million next year, Jones has a number of ways to send out the requisite salary. Either because of their high-level salary, value or inability to be traded until next year, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton would be untouchable here. The most likely package would be some combination of Jae Crowder ($10.2 million in salary next year), Landry Shamet ($9.5 million), Dario Saric ($9.2 million), Cam Payne ($6 million) and Torrey Craig ($5.1 million).

Cam Johnson’s $5.9 million salary fits in that range, but he should be considered off-limits in a Bogdanovic deal. If that’s Danny Ainge’s price, Jones should hang up and move on. The issue then becomes how many draft picks Utah would hold out for, and Phoenix shouldn’t be willing to go any higher than one first-rounder — preserving their flexibility should a blockbuster trade scenario emerge.

Bearing all that in mind, the most likely starting point is Crowder. His salary is the easiest building block, he plays the small-ball 4 like Bogey, and he hasn’t been shy on social media about his discontent this summer, liking tweets about reunions with the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, pinning pro-Heat comments on his Instagram and outright deleting his Insta altogether. If he’s that unhappy, and the Suns are looking into Bogdanovic, it’s hard to see a deal going down that doesn’t involve Crowder.

From there, it’s a matter of attaching enough salary without sending out too many bodies. This iteration would be Phoenix’s best-case scenario, attaching Vanderbilt and sending out a 2023 first-rounder:

Will a pick that’s likely to be in the 25-30 range be enough for Ainge, especially if he’s giving up Bogey and Vanderbilt? It’s entirely possible the answer is no, which would kill this deal then and there. If that’s the case, the Suns could take Vanderbilt out of the equation and try proceeding with the same offer.

Vanderbilt would be a great help because of his defense, positional versatility and rebounding (he averaged 8.4 boards per game last year), and it’d be ideal to swap two rotation players for two rotation players, but he’s not essential to making the math work.

Shamet makes the most sense on Phoenix’s end to complete the offer, though Utah might prefer Saric’s expiring deal on top of Crowder’s expiring contract. Stacking up Payne and Craig on top of Crowder, Shamet or Saric would be giving up too many bodies, unless Vanderbilt were included, and even then, giving up Payne would leave Phoenix without a backup or third-string point guard, and giving up Saric would rob the Suns of depth and versatility at center.

If the Suns stand pat, shifting from Crowder to Cam Johnson as the starting 4 always made the most sense for the upcoming season. Given that potential change, as well as Crowder’s apparent unhappiness, a Bogdanovic trade would start with Jae…and signal a slight shift from defense to offense.

Bojan Bogdanovic brings firepower

A look at Bogdanovic’s numbers over the last few years paints a pretty clear picture: The guy gets buckets. He’s averaged at least 17 points per game in each of the last four seasons, shooting better than 38.7 percent from 3 and posting a usage rate or 20 percent or higher in every single one.

The shooting prowess can’t be denied. Aside from being a career 39.2 percent shooter from long range, Bogdanovic knocked down 3s last year no matter where he was taking them from:

  • 37.8 percent on pull-up 3s
  • 38.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s
  • 37.3 percent on above-the-break 3s
  • 40.7 percent on corner 3s

Even more impressively, he did all this with only 19 percent of his 3-pointers being open, according to The Bball Index. That’s not unlike the guy who’d either be starting ahead of him or backing him up in Phoenix — Cam Johnson, who established himself as an elite 3-point sniper, only got 15 percent of his looks being “open.”

Whether the Suns opted to start Johnson or Bogey next season doesn’t even matter; either way, they’d have two elite 3-point marksmen whose efficiency holds up on higher volume from virtually anywhere on the court. Both check out as great shooters off movement and screens, per The Bball Index, and the onus would be on coach Monty Williams to design more plays with them flying around screens for easy spot-up looks — something he and the Suns have struggled with in the past when it came to guys like Langston Galloway and Landry Shamet.

Bogdanovic isn’t just a one-trick pony on offense either. He didn’t get to the rim often, with Cleaning The Glass ranking him in the 31st percentile in his percentage of shots at the basket, but he was efficient when he got there. According to The Bball Index, he placed in the 81st percentile in adjusted field goal percentage at the rim and the 91st percentile in rim shot making. He’d also help with Phoenix’s struggles getting to the foul line:

Although he’s only averaged 1.6 assists per game for his career, Bogdanovic is a guy who can create offense with the ball in his hands too. He was excellent as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (98th percentile in points per possession) and actually took a hearty 28 percent of his shots from the midrange, per Cleaning The Glass. He’d be right at home with a Suns team that honestly needs to tweak its shot profile next year.

Throw all that on top of how efficient he was in handoffs (91st percentile) and how he cashed in on spot-up looks (95th percentile) and off screens (94th percentile), and you’ve got a guy who packs a wallop on the offensive end. He wouldn’t address the Suns’ need for another playmaking guard, but he makes better decisions than another popular Suns trade target from Utah, Jordan Clarkson. Bogdanovic’s career 59.1 percent true shooting marks him as the more efficient version of the bucket-getter Suns fans think they’d be getting with Clarkson (53.8 percent true shooting).

The trade-off

There’s no question the Suns’ top-five offense could potentially lead the league going from Crowder-Johnson to Johnson-Bogdanovic at the 4-spot. No matter which one started, that’d be a ton of firepower, floor-spacing and scoring ability.

The problem is the Suns would be taking a significant step backward defensively. Assuming Crowder is shipped off, Phoenix is already losing a pivotal defender and glue guy, as well as the best rebounder of the group. Bogdanovic spent 74 percent of his minutes at power forward last year, and with Mikal Bridges in the starting lineup, that’s the hole he or Johnson would have to fill.

However, that’s a lot of size and rebounding to be giving up in either case. Bogdanovic has averaged 3.6 rebounds per game for his career, and that was already one of the Suns’ biggest Achilles heels. Take JaVale McGee out of the equation, on top of the slight downgrade from Crowder to Johnson/Bogey, and suddenly the defensive glass becomes a major team flaw.

The Suns would still be a very good defensive team if they were to make a Bogey trade, and team fit obviously played a factor here, but The Bball Index paints Bogdanovic as a poor perimeter and interior defender across the board:

The high-powered offense might be enough to offset some of his defensive deficiencies, which is what Phoenix would’ve needed to brace for simply by starting Johnson over Crowder.

But if the Suns jettison Crowder and add Bogdanovic to the mix, they’ll have two superb shooters and offensive weapons…who may struggle to bear the load of that 4-spot on the defensive end and on the glass. Perhaps the sheer firepower is worth the risk, but it’s the biggest reason for pause with a potential Bojan Bogdanovic trade.

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