But in the course of doing the research for that Wiggins article, I discovered something that simply has to merit mention in the Pacers-related portion of the programming around here.
Specifically, the fact that Bojan Bogdanovic‘s emergence as the leading scorer, defensive glue guy, and all around good egg for the Pacers over the past two seasons has been one of the unlikeliest career turnarounds possibly in the history of the league.
Consider Bojan’s 2015-16 season and his Big 5 advanced stats:
A 10.7 PER, .550 TS%, .021 WS/48, -3.4 BPM (including -2.9 on defense), and -0.8 VORP.
Over the past 5 seasons, that’s the 26th-worst PER, 11th-worst WS/48 (worse than four of Andrew Wiggins’ five garbage fires), 8th-worst DBPM, and 8th-worst VORP (worse than Wiggins’ worst season!) out of 516 players in the sample.
Sure, his True Shooting wasn’t bad—222 players have had worse years than Bojan’s .550 in the past five seasons while playing 2,000 or more minutes—but the rest of the stats clearly bear out the “this is Trevor Ariza, only if Ariza couldn’t guard my dead grandmother” nature of the stats.
But the simple fact remains that the Brooklyn Nets, in 2015-16, had on their roster one of the worst starting small forwards of all time, a guy who was an integral part of the Celtics ending up with Jaylen Brown (picked third overall in 2016) that year.
And yet somehow, everything changed when Bogdanovic got to Indiana.
Since joining the Pacers, across two seasons, Bojan’s played in 154 games through March 26, posted a 15.0 PER—the first time he’s been even league average, and part of that is that PER is biased against wing shooting specialists—.611 TS%, .118 WS/48 (a team of nothing but Bojans would be expected to win 48 games), -0.3 BPM, and fully 2.0 VORP, enough to take his career total back into positive territory.
Bojan went from being basically Andrew Wiggins to 41st in the entire league in Win Shares in 2018-19.
He went from having one of the least valuable statistical seasons, like bottom 10 overall, of the past five years to ranking 95th in VORP this season.
Per 48 minutes, Bojan’s in 54-win territory measured by the “if your team average is this guy, here is your expected win total” formula of WS/48*410. (five guys, 82 games.)
If you’re going by advanced stats, by role on the team—Bojan, in Victor Oladipo‘s absence, has emerged as the Pacers’ main offensive weapon—and by “that guy came out of absolutely nowhere”, then even when you consider Bojan’s workmanlike performance on the 2017-18 Pacers, he has a case for Most Improved Player.
And sure, part of that is that players on bad teams tend to put up worse stats. The 2015-16 Nets are not the 2018-19 Nets, much less the 2018-19 Pacers.
But that’s its own chicken-and-egg problem. Were Bojan’s stats terrible in Brooklyn and Washington because his teams sucked or did his teams suck because Bojan’s stats were terrible and he played 2,000 minutes as a major cog in their offenses?
Ultimately, one inescapable truth remains…
A guy who was one of the worst players in the league is now arguably the best player on a playoff team.
Kevin Pritchard needs to thank the Basketball Gods. Then he needs to re-sign Bojan for whatever amount short of a max contract it takes to keep him.