If you were to have surveyed 100 NBA analysts before the playoffs began, including myself, asking which Utah Jazz player would have a breakout defensive performance, Bojan Bogdanovic might have been at the bottom of the list.
It’s not disrespectful or a hot take to say that Bogdanovic is known more for his offense — that’s why the Jazz went out and got him in the 2019 offseason. They wanted snipers, and Bogdanovic is one of the best shooters out there. The space and gravity he provides the Jazz’s high-powered, shoot early and often offense is without a doubt his greatest weapon.
But through two games against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, Bogdanovic has not only shined on the defensive end, he has downright dominated. What makes this development even more shocking are the possessions in which he has looked like an All-Defense type player against two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Actually, one of the biggest question marks looming over the Jazz throughout the regular season was whether or not they could get through the playoffs without another lengthy wing defender.
I promise you, no one thought the answer was Bogdanovic. It’s not just that the Jazz’s perimeter defense was a question heading into the postseason, but Bogdanovic was looked at as a weakness. He would be someone that the opposing team could hunt and switch onto when they wanted to get a bucket. That has absolutely not been the case.
In two playoff games against the Jazz, Leonard has scored a total of seven points when guarded by Bogdanovic. In those minutes, Leonard has taken just a single 3-pointer, a shot he missed, and hasn’t been able to facilitate as well as you’d think, dishing out just one assist over two games.
“He’s gonna hurt himself!” Joe Ingles said with a hearty chuckle after the Jazz’s 117-111 Game 2 win over the Clippers. “Because now for 82 regular season games he’s gonna have to pick up full court.”
Ingles then tried his best to compliment Bogdanovic’s effort throughout the regular season, saying that his teammate is often overrated because of how good he is on the offensive end.
“He is so good offensively that you think of Bojan and that’s what you think,” Ingles said.
“He was very matter of fact in that it’s the playoffs, and he’s ready and he’s locked in and that’s what you’ve seen. He is one of the more competitive guys that I’ve ever been around, and that translates to both ends of the floor.” — Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder on Bojan Bogdanovic
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said that before the postseason began, the coaching staff had a discussion with Bogdanovic about the need for him to be more aggressive on the defensive end and to fight for rebounds.
“We were on him a little bit,” Snyder said. “He was very matter of fact in that it’s the playoffs, and he’s ready and he’s locked in and that’s what you’ve seen. He is one of the more competitive guys that I’ve ever been around, and that translates to both ends of the floor.”
Bogdanovic has been fighting through screens, helping with double teams and playing one-on-one, not rattled by any switch and certainly not fazed when having to guard one of the most dominant scorers in the game in Leonard.
Meanwhile, Bogdanovic has still been able to contribute on the offensive end. He had 16 points in the Jazz’s Game 2 win, which included really important fourth quarter buckets.
The Jazz knew that they were going to need Bogdanovic in the playoffs because of what he offers on the offensive end, both as a playmaker in the paint and as a 3-point shooter. But what he’s been able to do on the defensive side has been a revelation.
“I think that our defense is the key in this series,” Bogdanovic said.
He’s right. And against all conventional wisdom, he’s been a big part of the Jazz’s defense dominating against the Clippers.