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How will the new bigs bolster Bogdan Bogdanovic’s playmaking?

Bogi can make the game easier for his bigs and now has more at his disposal.

Kimani Okearah

Throughout his first two seasons in the NBA, Bogdan Bogdanovic has proven to be a dexterous playmaker, especially when it comes to locating his bigs with easy baskets.

In his first season, there was a strong connection between the Serbian and Willie Cauley-Stein. The two read each other’s games like a book and connected 61 times as they do in the clip below. Kosta Koufos and Bogdanovic linked 31 times in addition to Zach Randolph giving 29 assists to Bogdanovic.

This previous season, there were multiple factors involved in a decrease of assists to both Cauley-Stein (down to 37), Koufos (only 9) and Zach Randolph (didn’t play, eventually traded); Bogi recovering from injury to start the year and then being nagged by injuries throughout the season hurt his efficiency, De’Aaron Fox took an absurdly massive leap, and the young bigs like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles entered the scene.

However, the positives indicate that Bogi’s chemistry with Bagley and Giles were built on concrete foundations last year and definitely can be stronger. Bagley and Bogi linked up for 40 assists, which was the second highest total between Bagley and another player (Fox, 44 assists). Giles converted 33 baskets from Bogi’s passes, which was the premier mark for Giles and another teammate. Nemanja Bjelica was assisted by Bogi 15 times as well.

With the Kings signing Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes to strengthen the frontcourt rotation, Bogdanovic’s playmaking could be an imperative element in the success of these new bigs.

One of the significant reasons Atlanta will definitely miss Dedmon is because of his elite ability to knock down the long ball at a 38 percent clip, one of the best rates at his position and size.

The last starting center in Sacramento that shot well from three was DeMarcus Cousins, who was hitting 35.6 percent of threes on 4.9 attempts a game before getting dealt to New Orleans. However, that was before Bogdanovic’s debut but he did play with Zach Randolph who was a 34.7 percent deep shooter on 2.5 attempts a game. While Bogi did develop chemistry throughout the season with Bagley’s improving long ball, Dedmon will be a consistent threat right out of the gate.

Young is a gifted passer and worked proficiently with Dedmon’s ability to space the floor. As he comes off the double screen, DeAndre Jordan picks him up but Kadeem Allen fails to stop and cut off Dedmon from getting an open look. Young sees it and goes for a fancy behind-the-back pass and Dedmon drills the shot.

Bogi can get creative with his passes, too, especially on pick and rolls with the big man rolling to the rim. In 129 possessions on pick and rolls when the defense committed and Bogi passed to the roll big, it resulted in 1.124 points per possession, good for the 60th percentile, per Synergy. A certainly improvable number, but this exquisite behind-the-back pass splitting two defenders and leading Giles to the rim with his pass was marvelous.

The similarities between the passing in the two clips are there and it’ll definitely aid Bogdanovic in connecting with Dedmon on pick-and-rolls, which was a strength for him in Atlanta. In 139 possessions as the roll big, Dedmon scored 1.281 points per possession which ranked him in the 83rd percentile, per Synergy. He also converted 60.5 percent of his shots on these possessions, so Bogi can certainly rely on Dedmon to roll to the rim and score or run a pick-and-pop because he's illustrated the consistency to be a threat looming away from the paint.

Despite Bjelica being a steady 40 percent three point shooter on the season (and having a Serbian commonality with Bogi), the two combined for a scarce eight threes. The threes mainly ensued on simple Bogdanovic give-and-shoot passes out to Bjelica who would apply his Serbian range to hit those shots.

But the play above signals the plausibility to run additional plays for Bogi and Dedmon by manipulating defenders to pursue a driving Bogi while drifting away from Dedmon as he roams the arc and anticipates a pass.

In the clip, De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein run a staggered screen (though it’s more of getting-in-the-way-of-a-defender and not a real screen), which magnetizes each defender’s attention onto stopping Bogi. This lures over Dario Saric into the paint to prevent the formulaic Bogi-WCS lob from transpiring, but staying one step ahead, Bogi makes the one-handed pass to where Bjelica is supposed to be for a wide-open shot.

The Hawks ran an impressively intelligent play here to get Dedmon an open chance and it relates to something the Kings can duplicate.

As Young brings the ball up, Dedmon proceeds to Josh Richardson for a screen, but curves around his hip allowing for John Collins to be the real screen setter and aiding in Dedmon to escape to his spot. James Johnson latches onto Young and a Young-Collins pick-and-roll is positioned but because Hassan Whiteside is a statue at the free throw line not guarding anyone (but still a presence that takes away a possible Collins lob), Young rapidly turns to Dedmon who obtains the shot he wanted.

Dedmon isn’t required to operate as the primary roll big and since he’s flexible and adept at rolling and finishing as well as hitting threes, the Kings can utilize that to their ascendancy and situate him as a smokescreen with bigs like Bagley or Bjelica as the man that attracts the attention inside, permitting Bogi to find Dedmon for a good look - and we haven’t even examined where Richaun Holmes falls into this.

The idea of Holmes also running pick-and-rolls with Bogi is greatly intriguing. Per Synergy, Holmes was the P&R roll big on 161 possessions, scoring 1.255 points per possession and placing him in the 82nd percentile, via Synergy.

The 6’10” center additionally was a solid finisher down in the restricted area, where he converted 179 of 249 shots, a splendorous 71.9 percent rate. Because Holmes thrives as a neighbor to the rim, a Bogi-Holmes combo should function suitably with the playmaking of one and the other concluding possessions with a basket.

The Phoenix Suns were notable for not owning an existent point guard on the roster so Jamal Crawford held those duties quite frequently with 57 percent of his minutes coming at the traditional ball-handling ‘1’ role. Holmes and Crawford meshed better than expected as they collaborated for 39 buckets. Devin Booker and Josh Jackson were also solid with Holmes, with them getting them 31 and 30 assists, respectively to the center.

All three put Holmes’ aptitude to roll to the rim after a pick, throw him a lob and trust his athleticism to go up and dunk it, and find open lanes to slash into with his quick feet to quality use and that can translate to Sacramento's type of play style.

It’s currently unclear what the backup center rotation will look like with both Holmes and Giles being more than capable of becoming effective players in the rotation, but we know that Holmes will make use of his time on the court no matter the amount.

Having lineups that include Bogi and Holmes brings in efficiency off the bench and their potential pick-and-roll chemistry could boost the improvement of last year’s tentative half-court offense.

The Kings currently suffer from the scarcity of pure playmakers that aren’t named De’Aaron Fox (33.2 AST%), but Bogdan Bogdanovic is one not to disregard either (19.3 AST%) especially at full health which he didn’t appear to be in the previous season. Cory Joseph will provide assistance in that department and Trevor Ariza is coming off one of his best seasons passing wise, but Bogi's the essential focus especially as the key sixth man.

Amidst a deep depth chart infused with abundant young talent mixed with disparate veterans, including the fresh talent signed in free agency, Bogdanovic should experience an enhanced third year as he’s surrounded with refined bigs that’ll nourish off his artistry to make the game simpler, if not more fun. After all, it is his contract year to ultimately prove his merit to the organization.