One recurring theme us Utah Jazz fans have experienced over the years has been the disrespect towards the organization and the state. From Dominique Wilkins refusing to play for the team, Rony Seikaly’s refusal to be traded, and Derek Harper’s “You go live in Utah”, to needing to overpay on second year players Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, Derek Fisher lying to get out of his contract to play for the Lakers, and Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert being picked last in last year’s All Star Game, it always feels like Utah’s being overlooked and disrespected.
That’s why Bojan Bogdanovic signing a 4 year, $72 million dollar contract in the 2019 offseason was the biggest free agent signing in team history. This was a guy who was in the middle of his prime at 30 years old, coming off a season where he was promoted to the Pacer’s number one option for more than half the season due to Victor Oladipo’s unfortunate career-altering knee injury. Bojan lead the team to a 48-34 record, good enough for 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, a year after pushing the last Lebron Cavaliers team to 7 games in the first round. Bojan agreeing to come be the third or potentially even fourth option at a relatively team-friendly price was a such a positively shocking outcome for a team that whiffed on both Nikola Mirotic (went back to Europe) and Tobias Harris (signed in Philly for a max contract).
That investment in Bojan seemed to immediately pay off as he fit in Quin Snyder’s system like a glove, sinking two game winners in his first season, joining John Stockton (4), Gordon Hayward (2), and Darrell Griffith (2) as the only players in franchise history with multiple buzzer beaters (in regular and playoffs games, per Basketball Reference), and the first in three seasons since Joe Johnson’s iconic game 1 win over the Clippers.
Despite this success, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the season restarting the Orlando bubble, Bojan opted to sit out with a season-ending wrist surgery to repair an issue that had lingered for months. Watching the Jazz blow a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets must have felt terrible to him as a teammate, and coming back for the 2020-2021 season and struggle out of the gate, failing to find that consistent 20 ppg rhythm he had in 2019-20, must have felt even worse.
Bojan did find more of his groove near the end of the compressed season as the injury bug put Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley on the bench. Bursting out with a critical career high 48 points, 8 three pointers, and 8 rebounds against MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to maintain the Utah Jazz’s grip on the first seed and top record in the NBA, Bojan showed he was back.
- 17.0 points per game
- 3.9 rebounds per game
- 1.9 assists per game
- 39.0% 3-point percentage
- 58.8% true shooting percentage
- 30.8 minutes per game
What do I hope to see more of from Bojan this season? I think we all would like to see more consistency that he had in his first season with the Jazz. With Mike Conley’s struggles that season, Bojan knew his place in the offense. As Mike got more comfortable and looked great in the playoffs as Bojan sat out, when Bojan came back in, his role was confusing, especially given the Jazz’s two sixth man of the year candidates.
It looked like the Jazz had started to figure things out in playoffs, with Bojan averaging 18p/4.3r/3.2 3pt alongside Donovan’s 32.3p/4.2r/5.5a and Mike’s 15.3p/3.5r/7.7a. He even played lockdown defense on Kawhi Leonard for the first few games of the Clippers series, a callback to the excellent stint he had on Lebron back in 2018.
I suspect with Mike’s injury/planned rest and Joe’s slowing down, Bojan will again step into the role of second option and wing release valve, especially in one-of-Don-and-Mike minutes. Bojan’s best minutes came last year with Joe Ingles, Royce, and Rudy, and almost never with Jordan Clarkson, per Basketball Reference. (Clarkson was best paired with Georges Niang and Mike Conley.) With his wrist fully repaired and the Jazz figuring out the kinks in the offense and rotation, I hope Bojan can capture what made that 2019-20 season so excellent for him at near 20 points per game in a slightly reduced role at around 28 minutes per game. While he likely will never average more than about 4 rebounds or 2 assists per game, Bogey’s elite gravity and ability to create his own shot in mismatches is something the Jazz will rely on throughout the season.