The Atlanta Hawks and the rest of the NBA are in a bit of a quiet time where basketball-related news may slow down. But other things – such as the wedding of Hawks star Trae Young – become more prominent. However, things are just ramping up for basketball internationally with the 2023 FIBA World Cup set for late August.
Hawks sixth man Bogdan Bogdanovic was named captain of the Serbian National Team. The 6-foot-6 wing is coming off averaging 14.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 44.7% from the floor overall and 40.6% from beyond the arc for the Hawks.
In one of his first acts as captain, Bogdanovic tried recruiting Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic to the national squad.
Unfortunately, his efforts fell short and the 2023 champion and NBA Finals MVP will rest.
“[Serbian national team head coach Svetislav] Pešić and the leaders of the KSS tried to change the decision,” wrote Dejan Stankovic of Mozzart Sports on July 23. “In the previous days…Bogdan Bogdanović, who was in contact with Jokić, was also involved in the operation…however, there was no turning point.
Bogdanovic is a noted friend of Jokic’s, attending some Finals games and sending congratulations on social media after the Nuggets won the title.
“It’s always good to be Serbian, especially today,” Bogdanovic wrote in a separate tweet on June 12. “Thank you Joker.”
Stankovic understandably notes the massive loss of not having Jokic – who fell 0.5 assists shy of averaging a 30-point triple-double for the entire postseason – while also noting that Serbia will be without point guard Vasilije Micic as well. Micic, 29, agreed to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder and his participation in World Cup play is “theoretical” as it stands, per Stankovic.
Bogdanovic and Jokic last played together for Serbia during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, going 6-2 and finishing in fifth place with the Hawks star beating out his friend to be voted the top Serbian player of the cycle.
Bogdan Bogdanovic’s health is key for the Hawks
Bogdanovic is entering the offseason healthy for the first time in a while after having to miss EuroBasket play and the first 22 games of the 2022-23 season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. The 30-year-old veteran is also starting a four-year, $68 million contract extension signed in March.
Interestingly enough, the Hawks – who were 41-41 during the regular season – were 27-27 with Bogdanovic in the lineup. Bogdanovic did post the fourth-best net rating on the team, per Cleaning The Glass.
He is one of three proven veterans on a re-tooled Hawks bench alongside offseason acquisitions Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews.
Bogdanovic averaged 13.3 points, 2.7 boards, and 2.5 assists during the Hawks’ five-game first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics but a pair of poor performances in Games 1 and 6 undermined strong efforts in the other four outings. He averaged 14.8/3.5/2.2 and even tallied 1.0 steals per game while canning 54.5% of his triples in those contests.
If he can take advantage of his health and the running start of the World Cup, perhaps the Hawks get that version for the bulk of the 2023-24 campaign.