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Indiana Pacers: Bojan Bogdanovic’s under-the-radar career year

The now 30-year-old Bojan Bogdanovic quietly had a breakout season in 2018-19, logging careers highs in almost every statistic. Here’s what that means for the Indiana Pacers.

When the 2018-19 season started, it was clear that there were four juggernauts in the Eastern Conference; the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. The Indiana Pacers, who finished fifth in last year’s Eastern playoff race, entered this season with Victor Oladipo as their solidified star.

Dipo led the charge against LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers, and although the Pacers were bounced in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs in seven games, it was clear that he would be “the man” for Indiana heading into his second season with the team.

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Unfortunately, a ruptured quadricep tendon on Jan. 23 ended the young star’s 2018-19 campaign a few months early, and the Pacers were faced with a challenge just before the All-Star break. They would have to survive one of the tougher schedules in the league from that point on and would see top teams like the Golden State Warriors, first-place Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder — twice each.

In that stretch, however, the Pacers would manage a 16-19 record, and the charge was led by an unexpected hero in Bojan Bogdanovic. But that’s not to say that Bogey wasn’t playing at a high level before Oladipo’s injury.

A 4-0 week with @44bojan averaging 22.5 points and adding 2.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

>> https://t.co/RlZlXJhjlS

Congrats, Bogey! pic.twitter.com/jXbHC2xj0T

— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 11, 2019

The 30-year-old forward was still averaging 16.8 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting leading up to the All-Star Break. He finished the season with career highs in scoring (18.0 points per game) field goal percentage (49.7 percent), and 3-point percentage (42.5 percent), and was a big reason that this Indiana Pacers team was able to secure the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row.

For a player who’s been regarded as “quiet by nature” by his teammates, his game certainly made noise this year. He scored an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award in February, and began regularly enjoying the spotlight as the Pacers’ leader after Oladipo went down.

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Bojan Bogdanovic (23.9 PPG since the All-Star break) arrives for the @Pacers!

🏀: #Pacers x #HereTheyCome

⏰: 3:30pm/et 📺: #NBAonABCpic.twitter.com/ilh2a5tEs3

— NBA (@NBA) March 10, 2019

For Indiana, this season from Bogey opens up a ton of possibilities for the team. On one hand, the Pacers now have a legitimate scoring option to look to alongside Oladipo. Domantas Sabonis also proved himself as a huge offensive contributor as well, but as of right now, he’s their biggest source of bench scoring, and it remains to be seen whether the Pacers will utilize him as a starter.

On the other hand, however, Bogdanovic’s standout season may have generated some interest from other teams as a free agent. It’s not often that a 30-year-old whose name isn’t normally included in the same sentence as “star player” gets a long-term contract from a team, but his value has certainly gone up since he’s shown his ability as a perimeter scorer. If the Pacers aren’t willing to keep him around long-term, there’s a chance other teams might.

This summer, Bogdanovic will become an unrestricted free agent, so the time to decide on his future with the team is approaching for Indiana. The reality is that he’s become a much savvier scorer from all over the floor, and Indiana will have to decide if investing in Bogey will be worth missing out on a large market of free agents in the 2019 offseason.

What’s certain is that this year’s free agent market can drastically change the power dynamic in the Eastern Conference, with Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler, to name a few, all possibly testing the waters.

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Indiana isn’t the most attractive market destination, but it does have a star in Oladipo, young talent in Sabonis and Myles Turner and a more-than-reliable scorer in Bogdanovic (for now). Keeping this year’s squad together might be the safest move in a summer full of unpredictability.

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