There are two Hawks teams — the one that has started Bogdan Bogdanovic and the one that brought him off the bench.
With the 6-foot-6 sniper in the starting lineup, Atlanta is 21-10. Otherwise, it is a mediocre 23-23.
The Knicks have found out the hard way how potent this version can be and how instrumental Bogdanovic is to its success.
“What Bogey has done for us this season, we want to give him more [responsibility],” coach Nate McMillan said of Bogdanovic, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Hawks in the offseason. “So I’ve been able to change the rotation, allow Bogey to really play with the basketball a little bit more. And that certainly has helped our team.”
While Trae Young has drawn all the headlines for his sensational play in leading the Hawks to a 3-1 series lead, Bogdanovic has been a consistent force on the perimeter, averaging 15.7 points and shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range while also distributing 3.5 assists and tallying 1.3 steals.
He hit one of the biggest shots of the series, a game-tying 3-pointer with 55 seconds left in the Hawks’ two-point Game 1 victory. He had 15 points in the momentum-turning, one-sided Game 3 victory. And while Bogdanovic only had 12 points in Game 4, he added eight rebounds and six assists, showcasing his versatility.
The 28-year-old Bogdanovic’s season started poorly in Atlanta. He struggled as a reserve and then missed 25 games due to a right knee injury. When he returned, the Hawks had a new coach in McMillan, who replaced Lloyd Pierce. McMillan inserted Bogdanovic into the starting lineup on March 26, and he has stayed there after excelling in his new role.
So far, this series is just the latest example of what a smart move it was extending his minutes and how important the offseason was for the Hawks. They also brought in Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn, too. Rondo turned into super sub Lou Williams in a March trade with the Clippers.
“I’m going to tell you the truth: When we all came here, we [knew] this was a team that was a rebuilding team, but the players they brought this year, and the way that free agency was for Atlanta, and the way they were treating the guys who were here before, they showed they wanted to win this year and upcoming years,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s not about this year only. They wanted to build something that is going to stay for a long time. … I’m proud to be part of it for real.”