Grant Afseth

Grant Afseth

Pacers columnist

Editor's note: This article has been expanded from its original version to include video clips and more analysis.

Where Bojan Bogdanovic's game is at right now was unimaginable when he signed with the Indiana Pacers back in July 2017. The team probably never thought that they'd need to rely on him as much as they do right now either. That should translate to a hefty payday in the offseason, whether by the Pacers or from another team.

The plan was for Bogdanovic to serve as the team's secondary offensive option alongside Victor Oladipo heading into the season. The season-ending injury to Oladipo certainly caused the offensive pecking order to shift to Bogdanovic being the top option. He has made the most of the opportunity.

Since Oladipo's injury, Bogdanovic has averaged an impressive 21.8 points per game and has shot 51.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from deep. His tremendous scoring impact has caused teams to game-plan more deliberately to slow him down. Opposing teams have been applying additional pressure when he is trying to make plays with the ball and have stayed attached to him when he is off the ball.

The overall body of work that Bogdanovic has provided as a scorer this season has been quite impressive. He is averaging 17.8 points per game and that is on pace to be a career-best by a 3.5 margin. Also, his scoring output per possession on the season trails only Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard when compared to other high-volume players.

The main foundation of Bogdanovic's scoring arsenal has been off-screen sequences and it has played a pivotal role within the Pacers' offense. The team has become more creative in its actions since Oladipo went down with injury. As a result, these sequences have opened up plenty of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and favorable lane penetration opportunities.

It's a real asset to have a player who can frequently come off screens and produce with consistency. There are not many players in the league who are used in these types of plays quite as often as Bogdanovic. In fact, there are only five other players in the league who have logged at least 200 off-screen possessions with two being the "Splash Brothers" in Golden State.

Not many players have managed to be as efficient as Bogdanovic as an off-screen threat, either. There have only been 25 players in the NBA who have received at least 100 possessions worth of off-screen plays and only five players have been more efficient. He has managed to outproduce elite shooting talents like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Paul George and Buddy Hield.

Utilizing off-screen sequences is a strong method to create driving opportunities for players who lack elite explosiveness to blow by players at the point of attack. Indiana does not have a perimeter player to shoulder the playmaking load as an initiator like a James Harden or a Giannis Antetokounmpo, so these are crucial plays for their offense.

With teams more frequently deploying drop coverages, it would be advantageous for Bogdanovic to solidify himself as an off-the-dribble jump-shooting threat when coming off screens. He most often creates dribble jumpers for himself when dribbling off a pick as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations, but has not done it much in many other situations.

Being able to create jumpers off the dribble from mid-range is something that separates the dynamic talents in the NBA like OKC's George. It is too difficult for opposing teams to be able to stop a player who can come off a screen and catch-and-shoot from deep, but also put the ball on the ground to get to the basket and create pull-up or step-back jumpers.

The playoffs are a difficult time to rely on supporting cast players to convert on perimeter jumpers. With Bogdanovic being the Pacers' top offensive option, it makes sense to try to create as many opportunities for him from that range as possible. One method could be to enable him to be more aggressive creating his own jumper from deep in off-screen situations.

Many NBA fans may not think of Bogdanovic as a tantalizing transition threat because he lacks elite athleticism. Despite that fact, he has consistently escaped the defense for open catch-and-shoot attempts while also showing off an improved ability to get to the basket and finish. This has kept the Pacers' transition offense alive without Oladipo.

There has not been a more efficient high volume transition player in the NBA this season than Bogdanovic. This is largely due to the fact that he frequently lets it fly from beyond the arc and converts at a high clip without often turning the ball over.

Teams are going to continue to have a difficult time keeping tabs on Bogdanovic in the open court as long as Myles Turner continues to block shots and his team can keep forcing turnovers. It's often too difficult to immediately acknowledge where a particular player is and worry about stopping the ball, too.

It is crucial to have reliable spot-up shooters and there have not been many players better in this area than Bogdanovic, especially from the corners. He has been truly sensational at converting catch-and-shoot attempts in these particular situations and has even shown off a reliable dribble jumper at times as well.

Teams have been reluctant to leave Bogadnovic in help defense, but his shot fake has often negated that pressure.

No player has been utilized more in spot-up situations on the Pacers than Bogdanovic and that makes his efficiency all the more impressive. The rate that he has produced on a per possession basis has been nearly identical to Stephen Curry and ranks 12th among the 109 players who have received at least 150 spot-up possessions.

The Pacers have been able to spread the floor well effectively because of veterans like Bogdanovic and Darren Collison. This makes it easier for perimeter players who lack elite explosiveness to be able to get into the paint, which is important for a team that no longer has Oladipo for the remainder of the season.

Bogdanovic has shown an ability to drive and finish out of spot-up situations at times, but has not put that to use much. This could be something that he could bring into action more in an offense that has a stretch-four or an elite perimeter playmaker who draws significant attention from help defense.

There may be situations when the Pacers will need Bogdanovic to be able to convert on off-the-dribble jumpers out of spot-up situations. When the playoffs roll around and the opposing team is locked in and flying around as a unit, plays are going to break down and they will need someone to make something happen.

There has been noticeable growth from Bogdanovic as a pick-and-roll ball handler. He has not heavily utilized this aspect of his skill-set yet but that doesn't change the fact that he has generated elite efficiency. While he could still improve at getting to the basket in these sequences, he has been impactful at creating pull-up jumpers in mid-range.

While the volume has not been high, the results have been intriguing. Bogdanovic has produced the fifth best efficiency per possession as a pick-and-roll scorer among all 127 players who have at least 100 possessions. The only player who have managed to have greater efficiency in this area within that group consists of Antetokounmpo, Monte Morris, J.J. Redick and Damian Lillard.

Indiana's offense relied heavily on Oladipo's ability to create mid-range pull-up jumpers in high pick-and-roll situations, but it has not been able to fill that void in his absence. Bogdanovic has shown signs of being impactful as a pull-up shooter when dribbling off the pick in the pick-and-roll and having a stretch-five like Myles Turner makes it easier from a spacing standpoint.

There are potential limitations to using Bogdanovic as a pick-and-roll scorer, though. He lacks the necessary explosiveness to be able to finish over help defenders and that's a problem when teams play off Thaddeus Young in help defense. He also has not created dribble jumpers from beyond the arc. That doesn't mean that he can't until proven otherwise.

There could come a time in a playoff setting when he is simply not converting when coming off screens and transition opportunities are coming less often. The offense could be in real trouble if that happens, so at least testing the limits in areas like pick-and-roll ball handling by allowing him to shoulder a heavier playmaking load would be wise.

A dimension of pick-and-roll scoring that Bogdanovic has not utilized much at all this season has been shooting dribble jumpers from the perimeter. This is something that he has shown sparingly over the years to be able to do, but he has not regularly integrated it into his tendencies because he mostly attempts pull-ups from mid-range.

Being able to pull-up from 3 when coming off a screen could help make him more of a go-to option when it comes to pick-and-roll ball handling. Not being able to explode to the rim quickly when dribbling off a pick limits potential versatility, but some of that can be negated by becoming a more dynamic off-the-dribble shooter.

Indiana has sometimes used Bogdanovic as a post-up threat whenever plays break down or against mismatches. He has been decent in this area so it shouldn't be a priority to seek out these plays for him. However, if opposing teams look to switch screens against him more often as he continues to have success as a shooter, it's something to consider.

With teams not wanting to allow Bogdanovic to get open for catch-and-shoot looks, there have been plenty of favorable cutting opportunities for him. The Pacers should look to utilize him more as a cutter beyond mostly utilizing this attribute during the opening set play of games and during out-of-bounds plays.

Indiana has found strong success whenever it has used Bogdanovic as a screen-cutter and he actually has the highest volume (30) of these plays in the entire NBA this season. His efficiency ranks fifth among the 25 players across the league who have at least 10 of these possessions.

Bogdanovic has been able to take advantage of his growing reputation as an off-screen shooter and exploit ball watching in spot-up situations at times. It does help that the Pacers have used back-screening on his man to help greater take advantage of ball watching.

A lot of Bogdanovic's scoring success has been predicated on his jump-shooting ability and receiving the ball in situations that allow him to come off a screen with momentum going toward the basket. There are a few areas that he still needs to improve. It starts with isolation scoring and he could get better against drop coverage in handoff situations, too.

Indiana does not have a go-to isolation scorer and that could prove to be problematic in playoff situations. Bogdanovic will need to be able to provide some impact in this area as the team's top offensive option. So far, he has often been unable to turn the corner against the defender and that's highly unlikely to change since it's mostly due to a lack of burst.

Not only has Bogdanovic struggled to get to the rim and finish in isolation situations, he has been unable to find success with shooting jumpers without driving during those plays either. This is the simplest aspect of isolation scoring that he can change considering how getting to the basket has more to do with athletic limitations.

Opposing teams have frequently used drop coverage when Bogdanovic has been engaged in handoff sequences and that has made it difficult for him to get to the rim. The on-ball defender gets a running start during handoffs so that can make it more difficult for a player who lacks great athletic tools to get free.

The best way for Bogdanovic to counter the coverages that opposing teams have used against him in handoffs starts with looking for pull-up shooting opportunities. The other options include attacking unathletic big defenders who are engaged in drop coverage and to be aggressive when the big defender is going to stay home on his assignment.

A common theme across various types of plays within Bogdanovic's regular tendencies is that he will need to be prepared to make tough plays off the dribble, even in ways he is not used to doing. The Pacers' half-court offense has been able to simplify things for him with off-screens, transition and spot-up, but those opportunities could be reduced over the course of a playoff series.

The Pacers are going to need Bogdanovic to sustain his scoring excellence heading into the final stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. They are in a stretch of playing seven consecutive games against Western Conference playoff teams. Overall, they are facing 13 teams that are still in contention for a playoff spot with the one exception being the Atlanta Hawks.

There will likely be plenty of teams that will be interested in Bogdanovic's services once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. That will only intensify if he can close the regular season strong under such difficult circumstances and prove that he can shoulder the load in a playoff series.

Grant Afseth is the Tribune’s Pacers columnist. He may be reached at

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