Is Bojan Bogdanovic the San Antonio Spurs’ answer in free agency?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 23: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball while defended by Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers in the first half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 23: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball while defended by Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers in the first half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 23: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs defend against Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – NOVEMBER 23: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs defend against Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Reports indicate that the San Antonio Spurs are interested in signing free agent Bojan Bogdanovic once free agency rolls around.

It’s no secret that the San Antonio Spurs are in dire need of some wing depth, especially when considering free agent Rudy Gay will hit the open market at the end of June. Beside the 32-year-old on the roster were Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter, who became nonfactors by the time that San Antonio’s first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets came around.

Making a guest appearance on Ryen Russillo’s podcast, ESPN’s Bobby Marks states that three unnamed sources have noted the Spurs’ interest in small forward Bojan Bogdanovic, formerly of the Indiana Pacers. In his fifth season in the NBA, Bogdanovic averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and effective field goal percentage.

“I’ve heard this from three different people, that they (the Spurs) have circled Bojan Bogdanovic as their target there.”

Following the season-ending injury suffered by Pacers star Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic became the team’s go-to scoring option through their first-round exit in the playoffs.

By all measurements, Bogdanovic is a very ‘Spursy’ player, boasting level-headed shot selection and respectable defense within shifting team-based dynamics. His three-point shooting would be huge for the Spurs, whose two best players in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have shown little-to-no interest in shooting from behind the arc. The 30-year-old made 42.5 percent of 4.8 triples per game over the course of 81 appearances this year.

The extent with which general manager R.C. Buford intends to pursue Bogdanovic is yet to be determined. San Antonio could potentially roster both Bogdanovic and Gay, creating a one-two punch with Gay shifting into a sixth man role more permanently. This would allow for more spacing than the Spurs have had since the 2017 season when they reached the Western Conference Finals.

His price tag is yet to be determined, but Bogdanovic, in theory, makes complete sense for the team’s roster as currently constructed.

Next: Taking strides without Oladipo

CLEVELAND, OH – APRIL 29: Victor Oladipo #4 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers look on while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – APRIL 29: Victor Oladipo #4 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers look on while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Taking strides without Oladipo

It’s always unfortunate to see a star player lost to injury, especially someone with the notability of Victor Oladipo. As it goes with pro sports, one man’s loss opens up the opportunity for another’s emergence and Bogdanovic was on the receiving end of a major uptick in offensive responsibility after Oladipo was hurt.

In the 34 regular season games following the injury, Bogdanovic averaged 20.7 points, 4.1 and 2.4 assists per game in 32 minutes per contest. His field goal percentage was just above 50 percent with a 41.1 percent mark from behind the arc, impressing the Eastern Conference with a sustained level of confidence in his jump shot and slashing abilities. This stretch provided a major boost in Bogdanovic’s free agent value for the Summer because he showcased his capabilities within a featured role – something many other players in that position would sink under.

The small forward market is relatively stacked this Summer with marquee names like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris entering July as unrestricted free agents. While other teams prepare to throw loads of cash at the bigger names in this class, its unsurprising to hear that the Spurs are interested in bringing on an under-the-radar player.

Bogdanovic’s effectiveness dipped in the Pacers’ first-round exit at the hands of Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics. Indiana put up a great fight, but Oladipo’s absence was noticeably hurting the team as head coach Nate McMillan relied on a cast of scrappy role players to claw away at the Celtics’ deep group of dynamic players. Bogdanovic still averaged 18 points, 5.8 boards and two assists per game over those four games, but his shooting numbers dipped drastically.

Still, there’s a lot to work with in Bogdanovic’s skill set; now it’s a matter of clearing the necessary cap space to make a deal.

Next: Making the money work

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 24: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers is interviewed after a game against the Denver Nuggets (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 24: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers is interviewed after a game against the Denver Nuggets (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

Making the money work

R.C. Buford is mostly locked into his roster construction with the exception of Rudy Gay and some of the expiring veteran’s contracts. The team’s payroll is dense with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge set to make a combined $50 million next season. The duo accounts for roughly 41 percent of San Antonio’s cap space with Patty Mills coming in third, set to make roughly $12 million next season.

Buford can offer Bogdanovic the mid-level exception of about $8.6 million next season, but his recent performances will likely garner him a higher pay grade moving into the future. With the league’s cap situation fluctuating over the last few years, it’s hard to accurately anticipate Bogdanovic’s market value in the coming Summer, but it’ll likely be over $10 million annually.

The initial quote linking Bogdanovic with San Antonio stated that the Spurs could look to move DeMar DeRozan in exchange for assets and cap relief to sign the free agent wing, but this doesn’t sound like a likely scenario. For all of his deficiencies, DeRozan is still a top-level talent in this game and worked diligently to improve himself as an all-around player this past season under Gregg Popovich.

Trading away a star player like DeRozan simply doesn’t sound like the Spurs way. It’s certainly possible, but the haul would have to be worth the exchange in the eyes of Pop and Buford. Instead, the team could look at moving Mills because of his abomination of a contract in contrast with his on-court performance.

Andrew Ites detailed the logistics behind trading both DeRozan and Mills separately, noting their salaries as key components in making a deal.

Flexible spending would certainly help increase San Antonio’s chances of landing Bogdanovic, but the likelihood of that happening is questionable. Instead, they may consider moving someone like Davis Bertans or Marco Belinelli on draft night to open up their payroll.

Next: Fitting on-court with the Spurs

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – APRIL 21: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics in game four of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – APRIL 21: Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics in game four of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Fitting on-court with the Spurs

The Spurs’ starting lineup next year is going to need some shooting, especially when considering DeRozan, Aldridge and starting point guard Dejounte Murray’s questionable three-point effectiveness. Unless Murray is a drastically improved shooter and the All-Stars of the team suddenly develop deep jumpers, spacing could be an issue.

Inserting Bogdanovic to the Spurs’ lineup would create a likely starting five of Murray, DeRozan, Bogdanovic, Aldridge and Poeltl with Derrick White and Bryn Forbes sliding to the second unit. This is the kind of core, along with the anticipated re-signing of Rudy Gay, that could seriously content for a top three seed in the West.

Defensively, they’ll need to buckle down and hustle to make opponents work for their shots, but the offensive potential is through the roof. Both Murray and DeRozan are exciting and capable playmakers while Poeltl and Aldridge have shown excellent passing skills from the post. Bogdanovic could easily slide into this lineup and utilize the off-ball screens and flashy plays implemented by Coach Pop to his advantage.

San Antonio ranked first in the NBA in three-point percentage last season, mostly because of the high pedigree of play calling and strategy implemented by Popovich. The mastermind could easily implement a handful of plays for Bogdanovic to drain threes or catch defenders off the dribble with ball fakes and unsuspecting screens.

Next. San Antonio Spurs 2019 Post-Lottery Mock Draft

Even if Gay were to leave, Bogdanovic is a prime candidate to take over his role and excel. Should the Spurs land Bogdanovic and throw him into the starting lineup while retaining and developing their current group, it would be safe to call this a successful offseason.

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