Indiana Pacers: Bojan Bogdanovic and the importance of glue guys

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Every good NBA team, including the Indiana Pacers, has special players to complete their squads. These glue guys keep their teams afloat when things go wrong.

Great teams are more than just star players. Even the best squads in history needed go-to, reliable guys down the stretch. The Golden State Warriors have Andre Iguodala, Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics had Bill Walton, the San Antonio Spurs had Robert Horry.

The “glue guys,” as they’ve become known, are the players that round out great teams and make sure they stay great in the big moments. The Indiana Pacers are no exception.

When a game gets ugly, and nothing’s going right for the team, it’s the consistency of the glue guy that can pull them back from the brink. Without him, things fall apart.

It’s no secret that the Pacers aren’t riddled with star power. With Victor Oladipo as the only recognized star on the roster, the team has relied on a supporting cast of savvy veterans and young talent to stay competitive. Now, Oladipo will be sidelined for the season with a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee.

The Pacers were on track to finish the season with a win total in the mid-50s, clawing their way into the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They got there with only one All-Star and some help from one of the league’s most overlooked glue guys.

One such player is Bojan Bogdanovic. The 29-year-old Croatian sharpshooter is putting up career numbers this season. His 16 points per game come second only to Oladipo. In an era that values the 3-pointer more than ever, he’s managed a 43.7 percent clip from behind the arc.

“Bogey,” as he’s also known, has incredible touch. Few other shooters have matched his efficiency this season. Out of all players with more than 200 attempts from at least 15 feet away from the basket, Bogdanovic has been the seventh-most efficient shooter in the entire NBA. His 44 percent shooting from that distance puts him within one percent of Kevin Durant, and a hair under Stephen Curry on the exclusive list.

To put that in perspective, Bojan’s numbers from jump shooting range are higher than Reggie Miller’s during at least his last five years in the league, which is as far back as the data goes. Miller’s best mark was 41 percent during the 2001-02 season.

Hitting efficiency benchmarks that leap over Reggie Miller and go toe-to-toe with Steph Curry is nothing short of incredible for an overlooked wing on a small market team.

But perhaps he’s overlooked because he plays his role so well. His job isn’t to check in and put up 30 shots a night, but to get crafty and find good looks for himself throughout the game.

With Oladipo being shown a lot of extra attention from defenses this year, he had regressed a bit from his breakout performance last season. The 26-year-old shooting guard also missed 11 games due to a knee injury he suffered early on in the season.

So with the team’s most acclaimed player missing nearly a fourth of the season to date, how have the Pacers stayed on par with some of the league’s best teams? Here’s where the glue comes in.

When Oladipo’s knee sidelined him, Bogdanovic ramped things up.

His scoring jumped to nearly 19 points per game, and he easily slid into the role of the team’s go-to offensive player. Despite the extra scoring load on his shoulders, his consistent play made a huge difference for the Pacers. His shooting percentages remained steady, and that efficiency helped lead the team to a 7-4 record without their best player.

Without Oladpio many thought the Pacers would struggle to score the ball, but Bogdanovic acted as the foundation of the team. As the glue guy, he made sure the Pacers weathered the storm until their star returned.

Since then, he’s remained the team’s second-leading scorer, and a vital cog in the team’s offense. Now, with Oladipo out for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign, it’ll be on Bogdanovic and the rest of Indiana’s glue guys to step up once again.

One of Bojan’s greatest strengths is his basketball IQ. He’s incredibly aware of his spacing, which helps him maneuver around defenses and find pockets of space on the floor for his shots.

His off-ball movements are creative, and he uses them to get open looks. Here, he turns Thaddeus Young into a distraction, and forces Devin Booker to chase him down on the switch. Knowing that Booker has ground to cover, Bogey rises without hesitation for the easy bucket.

The play creates a pocket in the midst of three Phoenix Suns defenders, but before Deandre Ayton even realizes what’s happened, it’s already too late for him to slide over and stop the play.

Quick decisions like these have become the backbone of Bogdanovic’s game. This combination of decisiveness and basketball IQ make plays like this one possible. Before Oladipo even takes a step, Bojan is sprinting down court on the fast break. Ahead of the pack, he could have just taken the layup, but instead he uses his court awareness to have some fun at the expense of De’Anthony Melton.

With Oladipo done for the year, Bojan’s play has never been more important for the Pacers. The team will need its glue guy now more than ever to survive the rest of the season.

Bogdanovic has become a valuable part of the Pacers offense, but it’s unclear if he’ll be with the team long-term. His $10.5 million contract has been a bargain for the Pacers, and he may be looking to collect a bigger check next season as he heads for free agency.

The Pacers have almost $59 million in cap space this upcoming summer, but they’ll need to spend it wisely if they want to keep their glue guy and still have space for Domantas Sabonis after next season.

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Regardless of how long Bojan Bogdanovic is on the team, Indiana Pacers fans should appreciate him while he’s still around. Consistency is a hard thing to find in this league, and thankfully for Pacers fans, that’s Bogey’s bread and butter.