This time last year, very few Kings fans knew his name, could spell his name, could distinguish him from the Washington Wizards veteran with the same name.
Bogdan Bogdanovic – a member of the Kings officially next week – is not Bojan Bogdanovic. He is a Serb, not a Croat. He is a shooting guard, not a small forward. He also is an All-EuroLeague selection, a seasoned professional, and among an ever expanding list of international players to make the jump across the ocean and into the NBA.
The latest acquisition in Serbian basketball icon Vlade Divac’s massive overhaul will be welcomed and he will be very wealthy, earning $36 million over three seasons, as first reported Wednesday by The Bee.
During an extremely active news cycle that included Phil Jackson’s firing in New York, Chris Paul’s trade to the Houston Rockets, and intensifying competition for Paul George, Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin, the Kings also quietly declined to pick up the option on Ben McLemore, enabling the four-year veteran to become an unrestricted free agent.
Bogdanovic, a 2014 Phoenix draft choice whose rights were obtained a year ago in a move that sent the Kings’ No. 8 pick (Marquese Chriss) to Phoenix for Georgios Papagiannis (No. 13) and Skal Labissiere (No. 28), will be introduced at the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League, but will not play. His EuroLeague championship season with Fenerbahce (Turkey) ended late last month and he is expected to compete for Serbia in the EuroBasket Championships from Aug. 31-Sept. 17.
So back to taking a breather. To say the Kings are delighted about Bogdanovic’s pending arrival is akin to saying the 7-foot Divac is a tall man. When the NBA rules allow the Kings general manager to speak freely on July 6 about the 24-year-old prospect, who joins Buddy Hield, Malachi Richardson, and rookie point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III in the backcourt – so far – Divac will have plenty to say.
What he will not do is encourage comparisons between Bogdanovic and Peja Stojakovic, other than to acknowledge that both are Serbs, burdened by multisyllabic last names, and currently employed by the same team. Different players. Different skills. Different generations.
Bogdanovic, whose buyout clause for the final year of his contract with Fenerbahce is close $1 million, is regarded as one of the premier players in Europe and is coming off his finest season. Let’s start with that. A product of Belgrade’s youth programs, he has excellent size at 6-6, a strong frame and a 6-11 wingspan. Offensively he is a combination shooter-scorer who moves without the ball and is a willing, creative passer. Though neither particularly quick nor athletic, defensively he compensates with an aggressive, competitive nature and an instinct for stealing and deflecting passes.
“I’ve known Bogdan since he was 18, when I coached him at the Euro Camp in 2010,” said Fran Fraschilla, the ESPN college draft analyst who works the Olympics for NBC. “There was a lot of talent there with Nicolas Batum, Evan Fornier, Goran Dragic, Serge Ibaka. What I remember about Bogdan is that he’s fun loving, has a great smile, and plays big in big games.
“The analogy I use is that the top level of European basketball is comparable to Triple-A baseball. (Bogdanovic) was a .330 hitter, a star in Triple-A, and he is an older rookie, so the translation to the NBA game will not be hard. He played in arenas when firebombs were going off, and he’s impervious to pressure. Dave Joerger is going to love his grit. He’ll be ecstatic just to be getting on charter flights.”
Whether Bogdanovic is a value signing at $12 million remains to be seen, of course. It’s crazy out there. Only his contract is guaranteed. The fact his Fenerbahce teammate, Ekpe Udoh, was an All-EuroLeague selection this season but a draft bust with Golden State suggests that the signing be accompanied by a healthy dose of caution.
“But, honestly, I think it’s a good contract for both parties,” Fraschilla insisted. “Bogdan has to prove he can play, and he will. You could make the argument that he was the best player in Europe this year. I’m kind of excited for the Kings, actually, with the draft, the fact Vlade got quality kids. There is a little bit of hope.”
Facebook live Q&A
Join Kings insiders Jason Jones and Ailene Voisin live on The Sacramento Bee’s Facebook page starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss the draft, free agency, Bogdan Bogdanovic and other questions you might have. facebook.com/sacramentobee