Serbia finished off their 2019 FIBA World Cup run Saturday morning with a 90-81 victory over the Czech Republic. A fifth-place finish is not what the Serbs were hoping for when they entered the field in China. It was a disappointing showing for a team that came into the tournament with visions of gold.
Losses to perennial international powerhouses in Spain and Argentina proved to be the undoing of Serbia, but it wasn't for a lack of effort from Sacramento Kings wing Bogdan Bogdanovic. In fact, the 27-year-old has been the talk of the tournament, despite his team's early exit.
For the tournament, the smooth shooting guard averaged 22.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. During his team's eight contests, Bogdanovic knocked down 35-of-66 (53 percent) attempts from behind the arc and ran an incredible +100 overall in the plus/minus category.
Bogdanovic was the star of his team and possibly even the MVP of the tournament. He took ownership of his team and put on a show. More importantly for his team back in the NBA, he escaped the tournament without injury and looks ready to take another big step forward in his third season in the league.
It's possible Bogdanovic will need to take it easy through training camp and the preseason schedule as he recovers not only from the World Cup, but the extreme travel schedule. He'll fly to Sacramento and then back to India in the first week of October for the Kings' preseason matchups against the Indiana Pacers.
The Kings have undoubtedly kept a close eye on Bogdanovic throughout the tournament to ensure that he returns to the States in good health, and they have to love what they are seeing on the court. Luke Walton is still learning his players, but like everyone else in Sacramento, he has to wonder if Bogdanovic can translate his international success to another step forward with the Kings.
This is the third straight summer Bogdnaovic has come to the Kings after playing in international competition. His rookie season in the league, Bogdanovic looked worn out early in the year as he adjusted to a new league. In his sophomore season, Bogdanovic missed 11 of the first 12 games after sustaining an injury during the EuroBasket tournament, undergoing knee surgery at the start of camp.
Now fully healthy, Bogdanovic will enter camp competing for minutes in a crowded rotation in Sacramento. The early plan is likely for Bogdanovic to be a key component in the second unit. He'll have an opportunity to be an offensive leader of the group with veterans like Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelcia flanking him.
How good can Bogdanovic be? It's a question the Kings are anxious to learn.
He's often drawn comparisons to former San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, who spent years coming off the bench for Gregg Popovich's club. Like Bogdanovic, Ginobili continued to star in international play as well as with his team in the NBA.
Prior to his third NBA season, a 27-year-old Ginobili led Argentina to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. That experience appeared to work as a catalyst for the player Ginobili became in the NBA.
He would go on to make the All-Star team for the first time during the 2004-05 season and he became a vital member of a perennial championship contender in San Antonio.
The Kings can only hope that Bogdanovic will have a similar career trajectory to Ginobili's. With any luck, his latest experience in World Cup play will give him the confidence to be a more assertive NBA player and to take ownership of the Kings like he has with the Serbian national team.
Sacramento could use a player that can score at will and makes his teammates better. They have seen flashes of this from Bogdanovic, but they need more.
There is an outline of what Bogdanovic can be. He's a long way away from a real comparison to Ginobili, but if he can be the player he was for Serbia, he can be a difference-maker for the Kings.