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Is Bojan Bogdanovic Ready for Big Brooklyn Nets Role Next Season?

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2015

Brooklyn Nets' Bojan Bogdanovic (44), of Croatia, makes a 3-point basket as Milwaukee Bucks' Jerryd Bayless, right, yells at him from the bench during the overtime period of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 20, 2015, in New York. The Nets won the game 129-127. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Bojan Bogdanovic stepped up as a rookie with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014-15, but he'll have to rev a new gear during his second NBA year.

After a season in which the small forward averaged 9.0 points per game and posted a 45-36-82 shooting line while working his way to a second-team All-Rookie appearance, the man they call "Bogie" must prepare for a bigger part.

Bogdanovic was the definition of a role player this past year, a rookie who started in Lionel Hollins' rotation early, almost fell out of it by midseason and then reentered by year's end.

He didn't handle the ball much. There wasn't much pressure on his performance early. His home/road splits significantly favored his showings at Barclays Center. In every sense of the term, he was merely part of Brooklyn's supporting cast.

But that can—and very well might—change next season.

Even if it seems like he was far down the pecking order, Bogdanovic is only one trade away from possibly becoming Brooklyn's go-to scorer on the wing.

As noted by ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk, the Nets have hardly been secretive about their intent to trade either Deron Williams or Joe Johnson this offseason, and logic would say unloading J.J. seems the most possible.

Sure, Brooklyn would do anything to ship off D-Will and the $43 million it has to pay him over the next two years, but his contract situation makes him far less desirable than Johnson, who hits free agency after next season.

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29:  Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets drives against Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 29, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NO
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So, if Johnson goes, everyone would move up an extra step. And where would that leave Bogdanovic? At the top of the staircase—at least among the Nets' wings.

Of course, any potential Johnson trade could bring back perimeter-oriented scorers.

According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, a deal with the Charlotte Hornets could return Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Gerald Henderson or someone else. One with the Sacramento Kings could bring back Nik Stauskas.

But it's still reasonable to operate under the premise that Bogdanovic will instantly rise in import next season, if only because of his performance late in the year.

That's the thing. After essentially falling out of Hollins' rotation around the new year, Bogie burst back into it, which was partly a result of his defense, too. Hollins likes him defending primarily off-ball players, a skill at which he improved throughout the year, though he's hardly elite at it. Still, over the final month-and-a-half of the season, he finally started to show why the Nets were so excited about him at the start.

Bogdanovic averaged 12.0 points per game over Brooklyn's last 23 games, but who cares about the increased per-game numbers? How about the efficiency?

He shot 51 percent from the field, a ridiculous 45 percent from three on almost four attempts a night, all while seeing attention from defenses and his minutes go up. It was a classic breaking-down-the-rookie-wall stretch.

But Bogie might actually have to play a revised style next season.

Over that final segment of the year, when he turned into one of the most dangerous shooters in the Eastern Conference, he was making his living off the ball.

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29:  Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2015 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

His threes came out of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Many of his twos were a result of clever basket cuts once a defense lost track of him.

Of course, those traits are fully sustainable, especially given his lightning-quick release. And if Bogdanovic were to maintain the same approach next year, it's totally possible—if not probable—that he'll improve on his production from 2014-15. However, he's going to have to adjust.

A negligible 4.4 percent Bogdanovic's possessions last year came in isolation, according to NBA.com's play-by-play data. Only 8.0 percent were as a pick-and-roll ball-hander.

He almost never had to hang with the rock in the half court. The Nets don't necessarily have to throw him into those situations at a gluttonous rate next year, but they might have to give him a few more opportunities.

When Williams and Jarrett Jack are running your offense—let's assume those are the two point guards for now—one of the last things you want is either of them pounding the rock enough to hijack your scoring attack. That's when predictability, monotony and inefficiency ensue.

If Johnson is gone, someone else has to handle the ball just a little more. And considering Brook Lopez's post touches went down as the year continued last year, it's logical that next guy would be on the wing. 

Will Bogie become a high-volume facilitator? Hardly. You mostly want to use him the same way the Nets did last year. Let him run off screens, cut intelligently and get himself open for good looks around the floor. But the Nets will feature him even more in that role, too.

Bogdanovic's usage rate was a little higher than 16 percent before that end-of-season hot streak. That's going to go up next year. You can bet on it. His still-below-average 19 percent usage rate over the final 23 games gives us a nice hint that he's trending upwards.

The Nets' success in 2015-16 is going to depend on the improvement of Bogdanovic. They just have to hope he isn't overwhelmed by added responsibilities.

Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of June 11 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Contract information courtesy of Basketball Insiders.