After failing to get over the playoff hump in three seasons with the Utah Jazz, Bojan Bogdanovic was acquired by the Detroit Pistons in a contract year to enhance the development of their young core and be a part of the team’s long-term future.
Behind the scenes of Bogdanovic's trade talks
Following a first-round exit for the third time in four seasons, Jazz executive Danny Ainge saw “a group of players that really didn’t believe in each other” and began to dismantle the core by trading Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Bogdanovic, who disagreed with Ainge’s view.
“I think we were unlucky that last year Donovan got hurt before the playoffs,” Bogdanovic told HoopsHype. “The year before, Mike (Conley) missed time in the playoffs. My first year I was there, I missed the playoffs because of my wrist. Basically, we had a lot of guys missing in the playoffs. That was the key reason why we didn’t have a run deep in the playoffs.”
After the Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Jazz, many teams expressed interest in trading for Bogdanovic, including the Pistons, Lakers, Suns, and Bucks, most notably.
The Suns discussed sending Jae Crowder and Dario Saric, along with draft compensation to Utah for Bogdanovic, league sources told HoopsHype.
The Lakers had numerous conversations with Utah that included Russell Westbrook and both of Los Angeles’ unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 that all involved Bogdanovic. There were various structures that ultimately fizzled. One scenario had the Jazz sending a future unprotected first-round pick back to the Lakers. Other variations of trade talks included different players that could’ve been included with Bogdanovic. One trade discussion involved Jordan Clarkson, another involved Mike Conley, and another one included Malik Beasley and Rudy Gay, league sources told HoopsHype.
Ultimately, Utah saved the most money from the Pistons deal by acquiring Kelly Olynyk, Saben Lee and cash considerations for Bogdanovic. Various teams around the league were surprised as Ainge negotiated hard for a first-round pick for months that ultimately never was acquired.
Detroit’s plan and Bogdanovic’s free agency
Bogdanovic is entering the final year of his contract at $19.55 million and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer at 34 years old. The 6-foot-7 forward is a 39.2 percent career three-point shooter who could provide needed spacing for a Pistons team that ranked 29th in three-point percentage last season (32.6).
Pistons coach Dwane Casey spoke to Bogdanovic when Detroit acquired him and recently called him a “godsend” while praising his leadership skills as a mentor to his younger teammates for showing them where to be on the floor.
HoopsHype asked Casey about his expectations for Bogdanovic this season and potentially in the future.
“I’d love to have him back,” Casey replied. “He’s a free agent. Hopefully, he has a good experience with us and finds a good home with us. Everybody needs a guy like that who knows how to play and can shoot the ball. Hopefully, we can entice him to stay. If he doesn’t, he helps us, and we help him. He’s a pro. He’ll have a big role for us this year.”
When HoopsHype asked Bogdanovic for his reaction to Casey’s hopeful optimism, the veteran forward replied, “I’m here only for a couple of days, but if they’re open for that, we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Using the offseason trade interest as a barometer, Bogdanovic will have plenty of suitors in free agency.
Entering the new season, Casey cautioned against competing for the playoffs with his young Pistons squad, saying the team was still in “growth mode.”
“I don’t think anybody with our star player in his second year expects us to win a championship,” Casey said before facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “It’s to step forward, whether it’s knocking on the door to try and get in. Just showing growth. That’s one reason why we brought in Bogdanovic, to be able to compete. That’s our goal this year.”
Time will tell if the Pistons can compete enough to entice Bogdanovic to stay or if Detroit will flip him at the trade deadline for assets before potentially losing him in free agency for nothing.
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