The Sacramento Kings now own the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic thanks to the draft-day trade with the Phoenix Suns last month. Bogdanovic, who isn't expected to come to the NBA until the 2017-18 season, has caught the attention of Kings fans lately after playing well for the Serbian national team. (Fenerbahçe of the Turkish Basketball Super League is the 6'6'' shooting guard's main team.)
So the Kings landed the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic in this draft. There's growing excitement in Sacramento about him because of his recent play with Serbia. In your eyes, with what you know about him, is that excitement warranted?
Absolutely. I am a huge fan of Bogdan Bogdanovic. People who follow me on Twitter call me obsessed with him as a matter of fact so I'm extremely high on him. I know him personally; I have been following him for many years. This guy is a flat out, cold-blooded assassin who this season alone, if I'm not mistaken and my count is on point, has won three or four buzzer beating games for Fenerbahçe whether it being in a cup competition, in an elimination format game or the Euroleague, which is the top level outside the NBA, on the road in hostile environments. I mean this kid isn't scared and definitely does not shy away from the moment. So that in itself is extremely encouraging for any NBA team that landed him, especially for Sacramento.
I know that the Phoenix Suns were extremely disappointed in his decision to stay overseas this upcoming season, which was solely based, to my understanding, on the financial side of basketball, not much the professional side and minutes that he would have gotten in Phoenix. His contract out, the money that he would have been making here compared to there wasn't really lucrative enough to bring him over and miss out on next year, where he can I assume sign as a free agent a bigger contract. So this whole time that he was telling Phoenix that he was going to come over, they were telling people it's a done deal, then heading into draft day, he gave them the red light and they were just so disappointed that they opted with Dragan [Bender] and then with [Marquese] Chriss. And to send him in the deal to Sacramento made a lot of sense for them because that former Yugoslavia umbrella with [Vlade] Divac and [Peja] Stojakovic over there will help Bogdan a lot come into his own in the NBA ...
... That's a huge get for Sacramento. He's a back-to-back EuroLeague rising star. I saw him in the flesh, hitting game-winning shots against Maccabi Tel Aviv, which was a EuroLeague champion team, against David Blatt. So again, this guy has all the talent. He's a great two-way player. He has size, he's athletic, his main fire power is his three-point game. He can shoot lights out, which is a matter of confidence.
So say you are the Kings GM and you are sitting there with the 8th pick in this year's NBA Draft. Marquese Chriss is on the board. It sounds to me like based on how high you are on Bogdan that you think Bogdan may be better than Chriss. There were some picks involved in the deal, but do you see the trade the Kings made as a good move on draft day?
Well, the funny story is that Phoenix really wanted Chriss, and they knew that if they take him at No. 4, then they lose Dragan Bender to Denver ... so that deal allowed Sacramento to take Chriss in the trade for Bogdan. That's a really tough question if I would take Bogdan over Chriss, if they made the right decision, only time will tell. I think Bogdan is a much more established player than Chriss. I think Chriss overseas can't do what Bogdan has accomplished. But only time will tell if that's the right decision.
You mentioned the contract situation with Bodgan. That's obviously a big part of why he wanted to stay overseas another year. Based on where he is right now and where the salaries are in the NBA, what kind of money do you think he can demand when he does come over?
Eventually, when he goes over I think we are talking about anywhere between $5 to $8 million a year, I think, given on how far he leads his team in the Euroleague this season.
You talk to a lot of folks around the NBA and in the international game, scouts, GMs, etc. What opinions do people have about Bogdan around the basketball community?
Everyone I talk to thinks very highly of him. Not just as a player, but his character as well. I wouldn't call him a leader, he's not as vocal as other guys could be, but he'll lead by example because he'll take that big shot, he'll make a defensive play. He hit a game-winner sneaking into an offensive rebound tip in, and this guy is 6'6'' and you have centers who are 7 feet, that's just one of the things that stands out with him, is that he'll do the unimaginable ... he doesn't give up on plays, he'll keep fighting, he's always aggressive ... I've seen him a few times, his coach can go on rants, super crazy, calls him out middle of games, slaps him over the head; he's sensitive, but he'll respond. He takes that as constructive criticism and I think that's why a lot of people like him.
Let's talk defense. What's he like on that side of the ball? I imagine his size and wingspan can probably help him out quite a bit as far as being an effective defender.
He's not as quick as other guards. But in Europe, he manages to size up against smaller players because of his size, because of his long wingspan, because of his basketball IQ, no one is taking him into the post ... He's aggressive, his lateral quickness isn't NBA level, he's not super quick like that, but he makes up for it in other places like you mentioned with his wingspan, with his size, with his smarts. And the game in Europe is different because guys like Dragan Bender, for example, struggle with numbers, struggle to adapt because he's playing out of position because guys here aren't as tall, aren't as athletic, whereas in the NBA, he'll really be guarding a four or a three, and here he'll play the four and the four man will be 6'6'' as opposed to 7'2'' or 7'0''. So Bogdan has his share of guarding guys one through small fours, and that's just another advantage that he can put in his arsenal.
I have heard some people say that if Bogdan was in the draft this year he would have been a lottery pick. Essentially, he was because the Kings traded for his rights at 8, but what are your thoughts on that? Do you think he would have gone in the top 8 if he was in this year's NBA Draft?
Top 5 pick this summer if he were in the draft.
Who would he have beat out in that top 5?
I think that ever since guys like [Andrea] Bargnani and [Andrew] Bogut didn't really pan out to what people expected in Europe's No. 1 picks ... I think people are a lot more hesitant. The Lakers came out here with Mitch Kupchak, he didn't fly all over the world. Israel was one of two destinations he traveled to in Europe and that says a lot about what they thought about Dragan Bender, but the last European who played for them and played well was Vlade Divac. It's a really big risk for NBA teams to select those European guys really high when they are following kids in college every single day for one to four years and they know everything about them. Transition is scary, you don't know what kind of lottery kid you are going to get. So I think that's why Dragan fell to the four, from two or three. Also Danny Ainge and Austin Ainge were here in Israel, and you know they loved him. Everyone loves Dragan, and the things I mentioned come into play when they evaluate the prospects in terms of top picks. So I don't know if Bogdan would have beaten [Brandon] Ingram or [Ben] Simmons at the 1-2 just because of what I said - these two guys are super lengthy, they are super skilled, they're taller, they're bigger, their upside is a lot higher ... I think Bogdan, to me, would be an easy, clear cut 3,4, 5, could go anywhere.
You mentioned Bogdan's speed is lacking a little bit, and he can make up for that on the defensive side, but how about creating his own shot? Do you think with the speed and the length in the NBA that he's skilled enough to make up for the lack of speed to create his own shot?
Absolutely. I think a lot of the NBA defenders are lazy. I only think a handful of them actually play defense and smother defense. I think the backup guards are the ones fighting for their lives so they play a lot tougher than the first starting competition point guards or shooting guards. Bogdan is an excellent pick and roll player. I mentioned his high IQ. He doesn't force his shot. He passes a lot off the pick and roll. He can find the big man, whether it be a curl or a pop. And creating his own shot is definitely not a problem. If you Google "Bogdan playing Partizan against Maccabi Tel Aviv", he shot a game-winning three, created his own bucket over Ricky Hickman, which is one of the better defenders in Europe.
You have had a lot of positive things to say about Bogdan. What are some things you think he needs to work on as he makes the transition into the NBA? I have read some reports that say he is a little turnover-prone.
Is Bogdan turnover prone? He probably is, that might be true. I also think his ball handling needs a lot of improvement, both hands. There was one thing that was frustrating for me to see because I think so highly of him. In the European finals, on the last possession of regulation, he lost his man to a backdoor play that ultimately allowed the opposing team to force overtime and they lost the Euroleague. So I think concentration, defense, awareness, those are the things that he'll have to improve.
I wanted to chat with you about Georgios Papagiannis as well. Kings fans are a little bit nervous right now about him based on his Summer League play. We know folks tend to have extreme reactions to Summer League play, but what do you think about him as a prospect in the NBA and do you think he was worth the No. 13 pick with so many well-known prospects still on the board?
My opinion, two of the best overseas guys coming into the draft were Ante Žižić, who is being stashed by the Celtics and [Ivica] Zubac to the Lakers. I didn't really think highly of Papagiannis. You are asking me if Bogdan would go top 8 in this draft had he been a potential prospect when he's two-time Euroleague rising star, two-time final fourist, Euroleague finalist, Turkish champion, and then you have Papagiannis whose played in 23 games, averages 6 [points] and 2 [rebounds], goes 13, compared to this decorated superstar. I think there were several European talents on the board who could have gone before him. I'm not saying it's a mistake because I don't know, only time will tell. I didn't really see a lot from Papagiannis in Europe to think that he warranted the No. 13 pick. And from what I heard from people who played with him, he can be a little soft, which is alarming, not so aggressive.
You broke the news about David Stockton getting a contract with a team in Croatia. As far as you know, does that mean that there is no way that Stockton can stay in the NBA? He's been playing well for the Kings in Summer League and they have history with him. What does that deal look like and how long do you see him staying over there?
It's a three-year deal, with NBA-outs, mutual outs ... I think the goal of the team is to have him there long-term and that's why they are helping him obtain his Croatian citizenship from his mother's side. I think his grandfather is from the former Yugoslavia so the intent is for him to start at point and sign a combo guard next to him. I sat with the GM at that [Summer League] game last night and he was extremely excited to see David hustle, defend, he's energetic, he brings it every play when some guys slack. Those are the kinds of things that spark a team, when you see somebody always fighting out there like a [Matthew] Dellavedova so he definitely does that. Three-year deal, NBA outs. I expect him to be there at least for two years. Definitely next season.
So when you say NBA-outs does that mean if the Kings decided they like him a lot right now they could offer him a contract and that would make the Croatia deal null and void?
Yeah, but that all depends on then what kind of contract will David accept? He has a starting position on a EuroCup team overseas, is he going to take what? A minimum? A non-guaranteed? A partial guaranteed? I think once that happens, he'll have to evaluate that situation.