The Washington Wizards got much-needed help at the trade deadline by acquiring swingman Bojan Bogdanovic from the Brooklyn Nets for a lottery-protected 2017 first-round pick, Marcus Thornton and Andrew Nicholson.
The move is already paying off.
On Sunday night against the Orlando Magic, Bogdanovic scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and made a career-high eight three-point shots, including a go-ahead basket with 1:06 remaining and the game-winner 20 seconds later. According to Elias, Bogdanovic joins LeBron James, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry as the only players over the last four seasons to score two go-ahead three-pointers, including a game-winner, in the final 70 seconds of the fourth quarter.
On Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns, Bogdanovic dropped 29 points, including hitting all 16 free throws and hitting half of his six three-point attempts.
Forwards like Bogdanovic are rare, and it’s been a few years since the Wizards had a small forward that could hit this many three-point shots with consistency. Since the three-point line was implemented in 1979-80, only two Washington forwards have attempted five or more three-point shots per game with at least a 38 percent success rate: Trevor Ariza (2013-14) and Antawn Jamison (2006-07). Plus, Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent at the end of the season, embodies the modern style of basketball, focusing on shots behind the arc and near the rim rather than opting for the inefficient midrange shots that plagued the Wizards before Scott Brooks’ arrival as head coach.
His recent performance also highlights how much better the Wizards will be when Brooks uses Bogdanovic as a stretch-four option or in their small-ball lineup with Bogdanovic, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., and Markieff Morris on the court at the same time.
Wall, who Magic Coach Frank Vogel referred to as “one of the best point guards in the world,” has tremendous court vision, so adding another three-point shooter like Bogdanovic causes opposing defenses to be put in a bind, especially when Wall drives to the rim during the pick and roll.
Wall sets up the pick and roll on the left side, drawing the attention of between two and four defenders on his way to the rim, leaving Bogdanovic wide open beyond the three-point line, where he has hit six of his 12 open threes since joining Washington. He converted 41 of 101 (40.6 percent) of his wide-open threes this season with Brooklyn. In one particular play against Orlando, Aaron Gordon, the closest defender to Bogdanovic once he sets himself up for a shot, is 22 feet away.
A wide-open Bogdanovic could become the standard and he has already seen his unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts account for 58 percent of his total with the Wizards, compared with just 45 percent during his time with the Nets. Defenses will adjust, but Wall can always turn to his No. 1 option, Beal, a career 39.7 percent shooter from three-point range who converts the catch-and-shoot with a defender in his face (61.3 percent effective field goal percentage) better than he does when left wide open (55.8 eFG%) this season. If you double Beal, that means someone is going to be left open. If you don’t, Beal produces 1.13 points per possession as the ballhandler on the pick and roll when single covered (top 12 percent of the NBA) and has no problem going to the rim to create his opportunities. Having Bogdanovic lurking in the corner will only open up more space for Beal and the Wizards.
Porter, whose has led the league in three-point shooting this season with a career-high 45.3 percent success rate, is scoring 1.38 points per possession on spot-up opportunities, most in the NBA among players with at least 200 spot-up possessions, and showed he was more than willing to defer to the red-hot Bogdanovic against Orlando on Sunday night, even if he, too, is wide open.
Bogdanovic also will be a potent target for Morris, who scores 0.92 of a point per possession (shots and potential assists) in the post with an increase to 1.44 points per possession when passing off the double team.
Bogdanovic can create his own offense, too. During his time with the Nets this season he showed an ability to handle the ball during the pick and roll and beat a defender in isolation, using his size and speed to get to the rim for easy dunks.
The sample size is small (59 minutes), but Bogdanovic on the court with Wall and Beal has produced 120.2 points per 100 possessions and a 55.1 effective field goal percentage, which would rank first and second in the league, respectively, over a full season. The Wizards scored 108.2 points per 100 possessions and had a 52.9 effective field goal percentage before his arrival.
“He’s been great. He’s been on a streak right now,” Wall said of Bogdanovic. “Hopefully he can keep it going.”
If he can, the Wizards will solidify their standing in the East and be in position for a deep playoff run. Entering Tuesday, the Wizards are projected to win 48 games and are the No. 3 seed in the conference. Staying there, or perhaps unseating the Boston Celtics as the No. 2 seed, has them avoiding the Cleveland Cavaliers until the conference finals, which would be the deepest run for the Wizards since 1979.
Note: A version of this article was originally published Tuesday.