He had three or four other offers, but Bojan Bogdanovic’s decision to sign a free agent contract with the Pacers came down to one fundamental factor: opportunity.
He could have heard it knocking from his native Croatia, had he been there. The Pacers have an obvious need for 3-point shooting and he has an obvious talent for 3-point shooting. The Pacers need a forward, and he happens to be a forward. The Pacers need versatility to fit with their planned style of play, and he qualifies. The Pacers need young, growing talent, and he fits that bill as well, although just barely.
Time will tell whether the marriage works, but the prenuptial agreement was a breeze.
“I thought the Pacers were the best choice for me and my future in the league,” Bogdanovic said Tuesday when he was introduced to the media at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“I see that I have big opportunity to play here. I talked with the coach during free agency and he gave me confidence. He told me I would be one of the main guys.”
That coach, Nate McMillan, said Bogdanovic will have first shot at the starting “small forward” position when training camp opens. He’ll have to earn it to hold off challenges from the likes of Glenn Robinson III, but it will be his to lose.
Bogdanovic hit 37 percent of his 3-point attempts last season and 39 percent in his 26 games with Washington, which acquired him from Brooklyn at the trade deadline to strengthen its bench for the playoffs. He moves well without the ball, has deep range, passes well, has scoring weapons around the basket and has enough bulk to play a “stretch four” role against some opponents.
PHOTOS: Bojan Bogdanovic Career Gallery »
He’s also played just three NBA seasons, so he can still be considered a green and growing player who is adapting to the league’s style of play after a successful European career. At 6-foot-8 and 216 pounds, he can play near and far from the basket. And, at 28 years old, he’s young enough to be part of a regrouping plan focused on the future.
“He fits right into the direction that we’re going,” McMillan said. “Now we have to be patient and allow these guys to grow.”
Bogdanovic resembles former Pacers forward Austin Croshere, in appearance and style of play. They even share the same jersey number, 44, which became available to Bogdanovic when Jeff Teague signed a free agent contract with Minnesota. Bogdanovic is a little lighter on his feet and has a quicker release than Croshere, as was evident when he scored a career-high 44 points for Brooklyn at the end of the 2015-16 season, while Croshere was an inch taller and stronger.
Bogdanovic is aware of Croshere, who is 14 years older, and already has been told by people around The Fieldhouse of the resemblance. But he signed with the Pacers to make his own way. He’s seeking “big-time minutes,” as he put it, and a significant role along the lines of what he had in Europe.
He averaged 25.3 points for Croatia’s surprisingly competitive Olympic team last summer, and scored 33 against Brazil. The challenge now is to complete the transformation to the NBA’s game.
“I don’t want to be in the NBA just to be here,” he said. “I want to play and I think the Pacers are the right place to be.”
“I hope I have an opportunity here because I play different kind of game in Europe, where I am main guy. In NBA, I (have been) a little bit off the ball. I hope I will have the ball in my hands this season.”
Bogdanovic will be pushed for playing time by Glenn Robinson III, primarily. Robinson, 23, averaged 6.1 points last season, and hit all six field goal attempts in limited action in the playoffs. Bogdanovic averaged 8.8 points in 13 playoff games for Washington, highlighted by a 19-point, 10-rebound game against Boston.
“Opportunities are going to present themselves and you have to be prepared,” McMillan said when asked about Robinson. “With the roster we’re putting together now, there will be opportunities.
“I like what we’re doing. We’re bringing two-way guys, high-motor guys, and IQ is pretty high. So, I’m excited.”
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