The Wizards’ bench has been historically bad this season. It has been more of an impediment to the Wizards success than anything else.
The hope throughout the season is that they can play just well enough to hold their own weight rather than being able to pick up the slack on a slow night for the Wizards’ starters.
But that has changed now. The bench isn’t the best, but it’s better. Much of that is due to the addition of Croatian swingman Bojan Bogdanovic via a trade from Brooklyn for this season’s first round pick — a Wizards tradition like no other.
Bogdanovic has been nothing short of a game-changer since he stepped foot in DC. He has catapulted their bench away from the underbelly of the league to just above the navel. While that isn’t great, it just might be good enough for Washington to make some noise when the postseason rolls around.
Make no mistake. This move was a good one, and Bogdanovic is a solid player. He’s become a fan favorite because of the moon-ball three point makes and his herky jerky play style, but he’s become quite the double-edged sword in Washington. Here’s how.
When riding the Bogey goes wrong
Bogdanovic could be a starter in other places around the NBA, but those teams likely would not be very good. He’s a good player with many redeeming skills, but having him on the floor over long periods of time exposes the team defensively.
The Wizards have not been able to hold larger leads over the last couple of games and have also seen their fair share of losses when they’ve fallen behind and done so quickly. It isn’t a coincidence that when Bogdanovic has been on the floor, huge runs have taken place.
And look, that’s not to say those runs are solely on Bogdanovic. Defense is a team concept in today’s NBA. One player does not always make or break what happens on that end of the floor. But Bogdanovic is a net -6.1 for Washington when he’s on the court. The Wizards have allowed 113.7 points per 100 possessions when he plays and just 105.5 per 100 when he’s off the court. In fact, when he’s not on the court the Wizards have a net rating of +8.1 overall, which is pretty good.
And it isn’t just because he’s playing with the bench. When inserted into the starting lineup for Markieff Morris, the Wizards have a net rating of -7.2 while allowing 128.8 points per 100 possessions. That lineup has played 22 minutes over the last ten games — the third highest total out of all lineups in that span.
And there’s more. When paired on the floor with John Wall, the Wizards have a net rating of -3.1 and allow 114.4 points per 100 possessions. They’ve played 143 minutes together over the last ten games.
Bogdanovic has never rated as a good defender and probably won’t in his tenure in Washington. He’s going to give you buckets on one end, but on the other he’ll make plays like this and leave his big man on an island.
It should be reiterated that these numbers have come within the small frame of a ten-game sample. With time, maybe his familiarity with the defensive system will help him improve a bit.
But the expectations should be low on this end. That’s not what the Wizards brought him here to do. What this does demonstrate, though, is that when he isn’t scoring, he can be a major liability for Washington.
The Bogey is on target
Bogdanovic can be a liability when he isn’t making shots, but it hasn’t come to that simply because he just doesn’t miss. In this ten-game stretch, Bogdanovic is shooting 49 percent from deep with a 62.5 effective field goal percentage.
Three point shots make up 51 percent of his total field goal output, and he has only missed two free throws since he put on a Wizards uniform.
Simply put: He has been money. So good, in fact, that the Wizards have been able to lean on him heavily in clutch situations.
“He takes big shots and he makes big shots,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said after Bogdanovic hit a go-ahead three against the Orlando Magic to solidify a Wizards win. “This is not just new to him.”
And Brooks is right. He has always been a scorer and a shooter. But it feels like his fit into the Wizards offense has been seamless. There was no huge adjustment period for his game, and him being on fire has definitely helped. But he also has some skills that are just hard to teach.
Just take a look here at how quickly he gets this jumper off against 7’3 Rudy Gobert.
His shot is quick, and his motion seems effortless. He doesn’t have to bring the ball back down on the catch and doesn’t take too much of a leap when he fires the shot off. This shot is going up well before Gobert has any time to get a real contest in.
He also gives the Wizards another option to run their second unit offense through. The bench did not previously have a solidified scoring presence and often ran through either Markieff Morris or Otto Porter.
Morris is adept at creating his own shot but isn’t an efficient player. Porter is efficient, but having him handle the ball in the half court is dangerous. Bogdanovic has shown that he is capable of both scoring efficiently and having offensive sets run for him.
But the big question here is this: Can Bogdanovic keep this shooting up? That remains to be seen. John Wall certainly hopes he can. The more shooters the merrier.
“I got to play a little bit more games with him,” Wall said. “But so far, what he's been doing for us, he's a heck of a shooter. It's always good to have other options.”
It’s hard to see Bogdanovic keeping his current pace up, but playing with Wall certainly helps him keep it going. The John Wall effect has been well-documented in the past with players such as Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza having career years playing alongside him, and the same is happening with Bogdanovic. Wall has assisted on 11 of Bogdanovic’s 51 makes. Eight of those 11 made field goals have come from three point range.
“I’ve never played with a better point guard in my career,” Bogdanovic said of Wall.
It seems like the Wizards made the absolute right move for the best player who fit their system to a tee.
This trade was costly, but needed. The Wizards have an opportunity to win games now and compete at the top of the Eastern Conference. Bogdanovic is hot, and he’s playing great basketball right now. The only question is how long it will last.