Bogdan Bogdanovic has stepped up for the Sacramento Kings. With Marvin Bagley III already sidelined by injury, most fans and pundits thought the Kings were doomed when De’Aaron Fox went down with an ankle injury. Instead, Bogdanovic has stepped up and led the Kings to a 3-1 record without Fox, with the sole loss coming against the league-leading Los Angeles Lakers (with a little assist from an incorrect whistle). This run was punctuated by Bogi dropping a career-high 31 points to go with seven assist, four rebounds, and three steals against the Phoenix Suns. It’s only natural that the league would take notice, and the vultures would begin circling,
The discussion has already started about how some team could pry Bogdan away from Sacramento this summer. Tas Melas speculated on Wednesday’s No Dunks podcast that some team will offer Bogdanovic a max contract this summer, and The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks suggested today that the Milwaukee Bucks should trade for Bogdan to make up for losing Malcolm Brogdon over the summer.
Tjarks’ logic as to why Bogi could be available is as follows:
The Kings also have to think about moving Bogdanovic, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. He has been a huge part of their turnaround after a disastrous 0-5 start, but he’s still caught in a positional logjam behind Fox, Hield, and Harrison Barnes. Sacramento signed the latter two to contracts worth a combined $179 million this offseason, and has to extend the rookie deals of Fox and Marvin Bagley III in the near future. Would they go into the luxury tax to pay a sixth man?
I’m a big fan of Tjarks’ work, but he seems to be solving Milwaukee’s mistake by asking the Kings to make the same mistake. The entire premise of Tjark’s article is that Milwaukee messed up by not being willing to pay the luxury tax to keep a really good player. But the Kings should trade Bogi now because they want to avoid the luxury tax?
There are some obvious differences in the two situations. The Bucks are one of the best teams in the East, and have one of the top players in the league. They have championship aspirations. The Kings, meanwhile, have aspirations of reaching the playoffs. But if the Kings believe Fox and Bagley are on the verge of being superstars, and we know the Kings believe this, they must demonstrate a willingness to keep good players around them. The Kings don’t have the luxury of playing in the East like Milwaukee.
Tjarks also cites the Kings logjam as a reason to trade Bogdanovic now. But the very circumstances that are allowing Bogdan is the reason that a logjam is simply poorly-branded depth. With Fox out, Bogi takes on a bigger role. And even when Fox returns, are we really pretending that splitting 96 minutes between Fox, Bogi and Buddy Hield is a logjam? That’s 32 minutes per game per player. If there’s a logjam, CoJo will be the one to see fewer minutes, no Bogi.
The great unknown is how the Kings front office views the situation. We know Vlade Divac loves Bogdan, but we don’t know what the organization’s plans are in regards to the luxury tax. Paying the tax for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs is a big ask, and easier for us as fans to demand than for the check-writers to do. But even if the Kings don’t want to pay the tax, it doesn’t make sense to move on from Bogi yet.
The most logical move is for the Kings to match any offer for Bogi this summer, and then move him in a trade if they don’t want to keep him on the books. Players have much greater value on a long-term contract than when they’re approaching free agency. On a new contract it will be easier for the Kings to get fair value in return.
It’s not the Kings’ responsibility to help Milwaukee fix their mistake. It’s the Kings responsibility to avoid making the same mistake.