We’ve made it. The Utah Jazz have played a real, (somewhat) meaningful basketball game for the first time in months.
The game, an 86-107 victory for Utah against the OKC Thunder, was one that showcased a familiar Jazz team with familiar performances from its players. Rudy Gobert recorded a monster double-double, taking advantage of Oklahoma’s smaller, less experienced big men. Donovan Mitchell flipped a switch in the second half, dicing up the Thunder’s perimeter players and creating scoring opportunities for others. Off the bench, the usual suspects of Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson provided great production, carrying their unit.
But the one performance that I’d like to touch on is Bojan Bogdanović’s. This past offseason, much has been made about what kind of impact Bogdanović will have this year. Will he be the fringe all-star and 20 point per game scorer we saw in his first season with Utah? Or will we see the less confident, turnover prone, and inconsistent version that appeared last year? Obviously, a large part of the funk we saw Bogdanović in last season could be attributed to him struggling with his recovery from wrist surgery. Missing a significant period of time and playing with discomfort isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that at times, he was a large negative for the Jazz on the court.
At the start of the Oklahoma City Thunder game, Bogdanović came out looking like the latter version of himself. There were multiple defensive miscues, a coupe of bad offensive reads, and a handful of wide open jumpshots that were short. In all honesty, I was beginning to get worried that we were kicking the season off with another disappointing Bogdanović performance.
Then, he started to clean things up. Bogdanović attacked the basket hard with the intent to score, challenging OKC’s sub-par paint protectors. He picked up the intensity on defense, making his rotations faster and staying in front of his man better. He even began making some uncharacteristic hustle plays like this fantastic offensive rebound and finish:
sometimes people forget bogey is magic, so we're always glad when he reminds them ✨ pic.twitter.com/MTSt99E5K5— utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 21, 2021
Bogdanović finished the night with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. He led all players in scoring and shot an efficient 58.8% from the field. Given how the game started, I didn’t think he’d end up having such a great game. Last season, when Bogdanović started games off on the wrong foot, he would clearly look dejected and it would have severe effects on his game on both sides of the ball. Watching him pick up his intensity after a difficult start has given me hope that this season, Bogdanović will find ways to make a positive impact on the court, even when his outside jumper isn’t falling.
If the Jazz are wanting to make an honest title run this season, having this version of Bojan Bogdanović will be integral to their success. When Bogdanović is engaged and playing with effort, this team’s ceiling drastically rises. Obviously, while a single game is a small sample size, one can only hope that this performance will be reflective of Bogdanovič’s play for the rest of the season.