Kings: Did Caris LeVert set the market for Bogdan Bogdanovic?

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 11: Bogdan Bogdanovic
SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 11: Bogdan Bogdanovic /

Bogdan Bogdanovic is a part of an underwhelming free agent class. Does he have a case to demand similar money to what that Caris LeVert recently received?

The 2020 free agent class lacks depth, and that will drive a bidding war for the talent at the top. Sacramento Kings shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic’s price point has a wide range, and the recent signing of Caris LeVert may have established the market.

$15 million to $20 million annually could sound questionable at first for Bogdanovic, but with the thin depth of other competing talents, it may not be so outlandish. LeVert’s three-year, $51 million deal is a quality starting point, considering their similarities.

Career Paths

It is critical to recognize that both LeVert and Bogdanovic have had far from ideal conditions thus far in their careers. LeVert suffered a gruesome foot injury toward the beginning of last season, then returned to his stellar level of play that was deservedly given high praise. Bogdanovic has had health issues of his own, and struggled to get a rhythm with an inconsistent role dealt to him by the Kings coaching staff.

Their similarities go much deeper than fragility however, their comparable production on-court is surprising.

LeVert seems to be regarded as the superior talent, likely due to the larger stage of Brooklyn in contrast to Sacramento. And to his much-deserved credit, he was the leading scorer in Brooklyn’s lone playoff series. However, there is no telling that Bogdanovic (who is known to be clutch, ask the Lakers) would not have been able to produce likewise had he been on a somewhat better team and in the Eastern Conference.

Statistics and Play Time

LeVert and Bogdanovic’s box scores averages practically mirror one another. Their minute averages over the previous two seasons haven’t exceeded more than an insignificant two-minute difference, and their points per game were never differentiated by more than a minuscule half a point.

Let’s take a look at the shooting splits in 2017-18:

Bogdan Bogdanovic: 44.6%/39.2%/84.0%

Caris LeVert: 43.5%/34.7%/71.1%

And in 2018-19:

Bogdan Bogdanovic: 41.8%/36.0%/82.7%

Caris LeVert: 42.9%/31.2%69.1%

Bogdanovic has LeVert beat in scoring off the catch and overall efficiency, but LeVert sits atop in assist percentage and defensive impact. LeVert has also notably had about a two percent higher usage rate in both of those seasons.

A Difference: Age

Their true variance comes via style and age. A 27-year-old shooter vs. a 25-year-old slasher. Does the question then shift to how vital is that age discrepancy?

Bogdan Bogdanovic came in the league after spending time overseas as a 25-year-old rookie, which is less appealing to most teams as it limits his room for potential growth, but it was a major determinant in his immediate NBA readiness. LeVert more traditionally entered the league at 22 and has shown somewhat linear progression, but did not have a nearly equivalent impact from the beginning.

Today’s age difference leaves LeVert with more potential room to grow, but a team can secure a large majority of Bogdanovic’s prime by locking him in for four seasons at age 28. Over the course of a likely four-year span of the contract, Bogdanovic might actually carry more on-court value.

Free Agent Competition

Neither of these players is traditionally viewed as a nearly $20 million player. But weak free agent classes in the past have led to Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, and Bismack Biyombo receiving large contracts, and Bogdan and Caris are clearly beyond that level.

Other top-tier restricted free agents the ensuing offseason include Buddy Hield, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, and Pascal Siakam. Intriguing names, but not your usual heavy hitters.

After that tier, teams will be looking at names such as Malik Beasley, Jordan Bell, Taurean Prince, Cedi Osman, Kris Dunn, Sterling Brown, and Monte Morris. Not so enticing and thus the rationalization on why the preceding range will command a higher salary.

LeVert, who would rank in the top tier of RFAs, withdrew himself from that pool. He recently inked in a three-year $52.5-million extension with the Brooklyn Nets. That may have established the market, but it also leaves one fewer fish in the pond.

Having a history of injuries makes it challenging to turn down $53-million in guaranteed money. LeVert wasn’t able to so no, but Bogdan Bogdanovic doesn’t have that extension offer on the table.

Possibilities For Bogdanovic

With Bogdanovic being ineligible for the standard rookie extension due to his first contract not being a conventional deal, the max Vlade Divac and the Kings can offer at the moment totals up to roughly 4-years $51-million. Almost equivalent money to LeVert, but an added year to obtain it. It is not inconceivable that Bogdanovic accepts that deal prior to him becoming a free agent, but it looks he could have more on the table come July.

The money Bogdanovic will be presented on the open market is obviously highly contingent on his production this season. He could underperform again, have difficulty staying healthy, or (the more plausible case) he could exhibit improvement. All would alter his potential offers.

Should he remain healthy and trend upwards, teams like the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets are among those that could comfortably rationalize throwing close to the $17.5 million annually LeVert received toward Bogdan Bogdanovic. He is rightfully valued at that price, assuming no major regression or injuries. Sacramento could pay it themselves, have the Bird Rights to both Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield.

Final Thoughts

Paying Bogdan Bogdanovic would put heavy construction limitations on the remainder of the roster and cause a headache down the line, assuming De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley both receive max extensions when their contracts are nearing their end.

At that point, it would come down to Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive financing the luxury tax, something that owners are understandably hesitant to do unless the franchise is in a clear championship contention window.

I wouldn’t expect Bogdanovic to receive much less than the comparable Caris LeVert, regardless of his age. Bogdanovic could very likely even get a larger sum with LeVert off the market. He is an ideal fit for a team looking to add a starter-level talent to an already established core.

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For the sake of the team and Bogdan Bogdanovic individually, here’s to hoping he has a career year that leads to his desired contract. If he does have that type of season, don’t anticipate the money to come from Vivek’s checkbook.