When it comes to offensive firepower, many critics suggest the Nets have little ammo once you get past Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin. But anyone who paid attention to the Rio Olympics understands that Bojan Bogdanovic might be on the verge of a next-level breakout in his third NBA season.
Playing as a part-time starter in two seasons with the Nets, Bogdanovic averaged 10.1 points, but playing for Croatia in Rio, he was the runaway leader in Olympic scoring with a 25.3 average and shot 50.6 percent, including 45.0 percent from three-point range. For perspective, NBA stars Pau Gasol (19.5) and Kevin Durant (19.4) ranked fourth and fifth while leading Spain and Team USA, respectively.
“I’m thinking he’s going to have a big year,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He’s shooting the ball well in practice. We’re pushing him to defend better and rebound.”
Because Bogdanovic carried a heavy workload during the offseason, leading Croatia through an Olympic qualifying tournament before the Rio Games, Atkinson rested him for the preseason opener and played him sparingly in the other three. Bogdanovich had 11 points in 15 minutes in the last preseason game against the Celtics, a team the Nets will face again Monday night in Boston.
The question facing Atkinson is whether to start Bogdanovic at small forward ahead of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is a better defender, or bring him off the bench to add offensive punch to the second unit. “We’ve got two more games to figure that out and experiment with it,” Atkinson said. “We’re still weighing things.”
It’s reasonable to believe Bogdanovic’s confidence and aggressiveness on offense should take a leap forward after his performance in Rio, but he’s cautious about making any predictions. “It’s completely different, different competition also,” he said. “It gives me confidence, big confidence before the season starts, and I hope that I will have big impact on our roster this season.”
Bogdanovic played 35 minutes per game for Croatia in Rio, but he seems comfortable with whatever role is asked of him. “In Europe, I was one of the best players on my national team and I used to start from the bench,” Bogdanovic said. “If I’m going to have the minutes, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m going to start . . . I mean, everybody would like to be starter, but if I am not, it is no big deal for me.
“I already talked with the coach. He told me I have to be better on defense. That I know.”