In free agency, Bogdanovic was one of the biggest signings for the Hawks, who desperately needed another shooter and shot creator if they were to meet their publicly stated goal of making the playoffs after years of rebuilding. His addition, as well as some other offseason moves, seemed to signal the franchise was committed to reaching that goal.
At 14-20, the Hawks started slowly under Lloyd Pierce — numerous injuries, including to Bogdanovic, were a factor. But, they’re now 16-5 under interim coach Nate McMillan (30-25 overall), and a healthy Bogdanovic has played a role in that turnaround. After missing 25 games with an avulsion fracture in his right knee (suffered Jan. 9 in a loss to Charlotte), Bogdanovic returned in March and struggled to find a rhythm in his first few weeks back.
Since then, he’s been on fire. Overall, he’s averaging 13.3 points in 26.8 minutes per game (playing in 29 games), shooting 40.1% from 3-point range.
“He’s got a rhythm, and that was something he was working on when he got into the lineup… He just got himself into a nice rhythm,” McMillan said. “We’ve been able to add some sets for him, but I think he’s really being aggressive. He’s getting a feel for his teammates and where he can be effective, be productive. They’re doing a good job of getting him the ball and he’s doing a good job of making plays and finishing.”
Since taking over, McMillan has slowly introduced more plays to get different players involved in the offense. After Bogdanovic had a season-high 32 points and career-high eight 3-pointers in Sunday’s win in Charlotte, McMillan said he’s personalized the offense a bit more to get Bogdanovic the ball.
McMillan likes Bogdanovic’s instinct to look for teammates, but doesn’t want Bogdanovic passing up many shots. He wants him to stay aggressive.
“He makes it simple,” Bogdanovic said. “He says if you’re open, shoot it, don’t hesitate. If you’ve got a guy on you, drive, find an open man, and play simple basketball. And it helps us, it helps us a lot, to play more simple and even more free. As long as we play that way, we are in a good spot. Some games we’re going to lose, but most of the games we’re going to win, because of the talent we have.”
Bogdanovic’s production as of late has been crucial, especially given the Hawks have been missing seven players because of injury for their past two games. That includes four of their top five scorers: Trae Young, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Danilo Gallinari.
“He’s been shooting the crap out of it,” wing Kevin Huerter said. “He’s been getting to his spots, we’re running plays for him, and he’s getting to his spots where he’s really, really effective. He’s staying aggressive. He’s obviously been really, really good for us.”
Bogdanovic thinks he’s gotten better at making reads and tough shots on offense, and has developed as a defender, too. He’s known around the team as a guy who’s constantly in the gym, getting extra shots up long after practice has ended — even when he was injured and limited to chair shooting. At first, Capela thought Bogdanovic was a little crazy, but now he understands his work ethic.
“I kept believing in myself,” Bogdanovic said. “I know what got me to this point and how many hours I spent in the gym and I never lost the confidence or anything in my game. And I had amazing teammates around me, and they know I can help them and how they can help me, and that’s about it.”